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Hajj: Grumbling over delay in payment of airlines as operators threaten service withdrawal

There is grumbling among airlines participating in the 2024 Hajj following the delay in payment of air fare by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria…

There is grumbling among airlines participating in the 2024 Hajj following the delay in payment of air fare by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) as contained in the contract signed with them, Daily Trust can report.

The development is threatening the return airlift of pilgrims after the completion of the 2024 Hajj exercise, it was learnt.

Daily Trust reports that there are no fewer than three airlines hired by NAHCON to convey pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Hajj.

They are Max Air, Air Peace and FlyNas.

According to the contract signed with the airlines, NAHCON was expected to pay the airlines 50 per cent of the air fare before the commencement of the first leg of airlift to Saudi Arabia to enable the airlines to make adequate preparation.

One of the airline operators however told our correspondent that the 50 per cent was not paid until after the completion of the first leg of the airlift.

As the contract further stipulates, the operators are to be paid additional 35 per cent as soon as the commencement of airlift.

One of the operators who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said, “We finished airlifting before we got the 50 per cent and now we are starting the second leg and they are still saying the money is being processed with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”

Another operator stated that the delay is putting pressure on the finances of the airlines, saying the carriers continue with the operation out of patriotism to the country.

He stated that the airlines are expected to pay overhead charges to countries they are flying over as well as make payment to the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia and the service providers like the ground handling firms in the Kingdom.

Also they are expected to pay the fuel suppliers as well as make payment for maintenance of their equipment.

With the way things are going, the operator said the airlines might be forced to withdraw their services.

“Imagine we were to be paid 50 per cent before we start airlifting in the first place so we can start preparing. Now we have started the return leg and the airlines have still not been paid. NAHCON stated that they have initiated the payment but if they had truly initiated the payment, it takes just 48 hours for us to be credited.

“This delay is putting pressure on us. We are not finding it easy at all and it will not be appropriate to say that we are withdrawing services. It will create a serious problem for the country.”

An official of the NAHCON who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, however, said the payment issue is being addressed.

“The money is going to be paid through the CBN and as I am talking to you, something is being done to address it and any moment from now, they would be paid,” the source said pleading not to be named.

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