Haj operations shifted to Kochi after runway was closed for wide-bodied aircraft three years ago
The landing of Saudi Arabian Airlines A330 aircraft at the Calicut international airport at Karipur on Wednesday brightened the hopes of Haj aspirants from Karipur.
Haj operations had shifted to the Cochin international airport at Nedumbassery since Karipur closed its runway for wide-bodied aircraft three years ago.
State Haj Committee Chairman C. Mohammed Faizy said he was hopeful that Haj operations would resume from Karipur in 2019.
“Saudia’s landing at Karipur is a welcome sign. The lack of facility for large flights was the only hurdle we faced at Karipur. Now that hurdle gone, a vast majority of Haj applicants from Kerala will benefit from bringing back the embarkation point to Karipur,” said Mr. Faizy.
More than two-thirds of Haj applicants in the State are from Malabar, particularly from Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Shifting of Haj operations to Nedumbassery had caused much hardship to the pilgrims.
There were concerted demands from various corners to bring back the embarkation point to Karipur.
However, the Haj Committee Chairman expressed his disappointment at not being invited for the inaugural function of the Saudia operations at Karipur on Wednesday.
Parliament Members P.K. Kunhalikutty, E.T. Mohammed Basheer, M.K. Raghavan, and P.V. Abdul Wahab joined hands with the Saudia top officials to welcome the passengers of the inaugural flight SV 746 at Karipur.
The return flight (SV 747), which took off from Karipur at 1.20 p.m. after it was flagged off by Mr. Kunhalikutty, carried a large number of Umra pilgrims. Saudia officials greeted the pilgrims with toffees and gifts.
“Saudi Arabian Airlines is the preferred airline for Haj operations throughout the world. And Haj is a sacred business for us,” Nowaf N. Aljakthami, airline’s assistant vice president for international region, told the media at Karipur on Wednesday.
With the expanded and modernised King Abdulaziz International Airport at Jeddah set to open in a few weeks, Haj operations from nations across the world, including India, are likely to be smoother.