E. Ahamed flags it off from Karipur; Saudi Airlines operates one more flight
This year’s Haj flight services from Kerala under the banner of the State Haj Committee began when a Saudi Airlines plane took off from Calicut International Airport at Karipur at 10.20 a.m. on Saturday, carrying 300 pilgrims.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Human Resource Development E. Ahamed flagged off the inaugural flight in the presence of a bevy of dignitaries, including Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar and MPs M.I. Shanavaz and E.T. Mohammed Basheer. Mr. Ahamed said all efforts would be made to avoid congestion in the apron during the Haj flight operations.
The Minister said Saudi Arabian Airlines would provide Zamzam (holy water) to all pilgrims on the same day of their return.
Saudi Airlines operated its second flight to carry 250 pilgrims on Saturday afternoon. The flight left Karipur at 1.20 p.m.
Two flights today
There will be two flights on Sunday. The first flight will leave at 8.10 a.m. and the second at 11.10 a.m.
As many as 8,585 pilgrims from Kerala have so far been chosen for the pilgrimage under the State Haj Committee. Haj panel chairman Kottumala T.M. Bapu Musliar told The Hindu that some more waitlisted applicants might be selected for Haj depending on the cancellations across the country.
Apart from the Kerala pilgrims, 313 Hajis from Lakshadweep and 68 from Mahe are also flying to Makkah from Karipur, the sole embarkation point for them. Saudi Airlines are to operate 32 services from Karipur — 31 for Kerala pilgrims and one for Lakshadweep pilgrims — before October 20. It will fly two services each on October 7, 16, and 19, three services on October 8, 9, 11, 18, and 20, and four services on October 13. The airline will fly one flight on October 10, 12, 14, 15, and 17. The first batch of pilgrims from Lakshadweep reached the State Haj Camp at Karipur on Friday. The second batch will reach Karipur in a couple of days. The Lakshadweep pilgrims will be ferried to Jeddah on October 11, said Mr. Bapu Musliar.
The Haj Committee chairman expressed happiness at the smooth functioning of the Haj operations. Pilgrims reaching the Haj House 14 hours before the departure have enough time to rest in the camp. All travel procedures, including check in and emigration and customs clearance, are done at the camp. The pilgrims are entering Ihram, a sacred state compulsory for Haj and Umra, at the camp. They undergo the final process of security check at the airport.
The pilgrims reaching Jeddah will be led to Makkah, where they will perform Thavaf and Sahee, after which they will be free to come out of Ihram.