Emirates is gearing up for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage with plans to transport 20,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. Over 2 million pilgrims are expected to travel to the Holy City of Mecca this year and Emirates will be laying on 57 special charter flights to help with the surge in demand.
Between 17th August to 11th September, the Dubai-based carrier will operate 45 additional flights to Jeddah and a further 12 extra services to the city of Medina. That’s on top of the five daily services the airline normally operates to the cities from its hub in the UAE.
Most of the flights will be operated by the airline’s fleet of Boeing 777-300 aircraft but this year, Emirates will be deploying its flagship Airbus A380 on some services to Medina to meet demand. That allows up to 188 extra passengers on each flight.
Emirates has also released details of the top inbound destinations for Hajj pilgrims this year. The airline is expecting its services to be particularly popular with passengers from Yangon, Manchester and Mauritius as well as Jakarta, Karachi, Lagos and Nairobi.
“Travelling for Hajj is a unique experience for Muslims around the world,” Adil Al Ghaith Senior, responsible for Emirates’ operations in the Gulf and the Middle East. He continued: “With a sizeable increase in demand for air travel during this period, Emirates is helping to make the journey more seamless for the scores of pilgrims making their way to the Holy City of Mecca.”
As part of those plans, Emirates will also be laying on extra services at Dubai International Airport. Hajj pilgrims can make use of special check-in counters and a dedicated team of ground staff are being deployed for the season.
Onboard, Emirates is making adjustments to its washrooms to allow passengers to perform ablutions and the Holy Quran channel will be made available on the airline’s award-winning ‘ICE’ in-flight entertainment system. Emirates also plans to educate pilgrims about safety and security in Mecca with a special Hajj video.
In 2015, at least 2,236 pilgrims were crushed to death during a stampede at the Holy site. The incident drew condemnation from the Iranian authorities after many of its citizens were caught up in the tragic incident. It was reported to be the worst death toll at Hajj in modern history, despite significant investment from the Saudi authorities to make the site safer.
On return flights from Jeddah and as is customary, pilgrims will be allowed to bring back up to 5 litres of Zamzam Holy water. Emirates will also increase its baggage allowance to 35kg for economy class guests and between 40kg to 50kg for business and first class passengers.
A few weeks ago, Maylasian Airlines announced it would run 75 direct flights to Jeddah and Madinah for Hajj. The airline will also be deploying its Airbus A380 for some of the services.