KARACHI: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has earned a revenue of Rs7-8 billion out of the anticipated Rs25 billion from Hajj operations.
Around 250,000 people went to perform Hajj from Pakistan this year.
Of this, PIA flew more than 82,000 pilgrims, which is 20% more than the previous year when 68,000 people had flown with the national airline, according to PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia divide the traffic for their airlines during Hajj season.
Besides, PIA and Saudi Airlines are major players who cater to around 100,000 Pakistani pilgrims. The remaining pilgrims are carried by Airblue, Etihad, Emirates and other airlines.
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Following the devaluation in rupee, the Hajj package arranged by the government cost around Rs400,000 while privately undertaken pilgrimage has no upper limit and can go up to Rs3 million, said an aviation source.
From airports situated in the northern region, ie Lahore and Islamabad, the ticket price ranged from Rs110,000 to Rs150,000 while tickets from Karachi airport cost between Rs100,000-Rs105,000.
Private hajj operators offered packages as small as one week or 15 days while government arranged Hajj takes over a month.
Private hajj operators book late flights for their clients departing for Saudi Arabia and early flights while returning to Pakistan.
These are peak times therefore airfares skyrocket making privately arranged pilgrimage expensive.
Last year during Hajj season, Shaheen Airlines was undergoing financial crunch due to which PIA and Airblue received bigger share of passengers.
"Overall, more than one million people from Pakistan go for Umrah every year," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2019.
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