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Haj pilgrims protest AI fee hike for excess baggage
December 26, 2007 13:17 IST
An Air-India flight for Haj pilgrims left Jeddah carrying only 100 of its enlisted 200 passengers after they raised an outcry over an increased charge for excess baggage the airline was demanding.
The flight bound for Lucknow, for which 200 passengers had checked in, left around 9 am on Tuesday.
"The 100-odd passengers who did not travel chose not to board the flight as they needed time to send their excess baggage by cargo," K M Kurian, Air-India's Western Province manager, told Arab News.
"Our rules for excess baggage for passengers stand at Saudi Riyal 55 per kilo for those purchasing return tickets in India and SR13 (Rs 137) per kilo for those holding tickets purchased in the Kingdom," Kurian said.
"So, there was nothing wrong on the part of Air-India to demand SR55 kg per kilo over and above the carrier's free baggage allowance of 45 kg in addition to a can of Zamzam water per pilgrim," he added.
Until last year, the excess baggage charges stood at SR13 per kilo for Haj tickets purchased in India. The pilgrims claim they were not informed about the increase.
When asked about it, Kurian said AI had communicated the matter to Haj Committee of India and it was its responsibility to inform the pilgrims. He said the increase was meant for discouraging the pilgrims from carrying extra weight.
Pilgrims stranded at the Haj terminal had already vacated their hotel rooms and had no other choice but to wait there.
"We are in touch with AI; the carrier has to make alternative arrangements for the pilgrims' transport and accommodation," said Sohel Ajaz Khan, Haj Consul at the Consulate of India.
Some pilgrims also complained about the AI not opening a counter in Madinah to deal with queries relating to lost tickets and other problems, to which Kurian said the decision was taken as there were very few inquiries last year.