The Air India flight for ferrying the first batch of Haj travellers from Delhi to Jeddah was delayed by over two hours on Tuesday morning because of some confusion between the Hajis and the Haj Committee members.

Flight KNE 8002 with 248 pilgrims on board was scheduled to depart at 10-20 a.m. but took off only around 12-30 p.m. because of some confusion in the security hold area of the Haj Terminal between the Haj passengers and the Haj Committee members about the Saudi currency, said an airline official.

However, Shakeel Saifi, a member of the Delhi State Haj Committee, claimed that the Air India flight was delayed as it was waiting for three Haj pilgrims who had not obtained their swine flu certificate in time this morning.

Akhlaquddin, a volunteer from a welfare society who was helping the passengers at the Haj Terminal, said: “The Haj Committee gives some money to the passengers for their expenditure during the pilgrimage. Instead of 2,100 riyal that they get every year, the pilgrims got only 1,600 riyal today. That upset the passengers who got into an argument with the Haj Committee members.”

The airline also attributed the delay in departure to “commotion in the security hold area between Hajis and Haj Committee members regarding currency”.

Mr. Saifi admitted that instead of 2,100 riyal, 1,650 riyal each were given to the passengers this time round, taking into consideration the increase in the ticket fare by Rs.4,000. But he categorically denied that there was any argument between the committee and the passengers because of this decision.

Meanwhile, Air India maintained that it had increased the ticket fare from Rs.12,000 to Rs.16,000 “much in advance” and that it was not an overnight decision as claimed by some passengers.

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