The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved Saudia Airlines to operate its chartered flights for Haj pilgrims from Mangalore Airport to Saudi Arabia this year, according to M.R. Vasudeva, Director, Mangalore Airport.

He told The Hindu that the Air India Express will not operate its flights for Haj pilgrims from Mangalore this year. The dates, schedules of operation of Saudia Airlines, and to which airport in Saudi Arabia aircraft should be operated had not been finalised, he said.

Mr. Vasudeva made it clear that Saudia Airlines would operate only chartered flights for Haj pilgrims on a temporary basis.

Mangalore Airport had begun handling Haj pilgrims from last year. Union Minister for External Affairs S.M. Krishna had flagged off the first flight operated by the Air India Express for Haj pilgrims from here on October 25, 2009. When contacted Chellam Prasad, Station Manager, Air India, Mangalore, said the Air India Express “has not finalised its Mangalore schedule” for Haj pilgrims from here.

S. Mohammed Ghouse Basha Ashrafi, Chairman, State Haj Committee, said that a section of media had reported that Mangalore Airport would not handle direct flights for Haj pilgrims this year. It was not true. There would be direct aircraft from Mangalore to Saudi Arabia. The dates and schedules have not been finalised. However, he was not sure which airlines will operate the aircraft.

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