Over 600 Pakistani pilgrims stranded at the Jeddah airport for approximately seven days, arrived at the Lahore airport on Saturday.
Saudi Arabian airlines flight number SVA 2060, scheduled to land at 03:40 am, arrived at the Allama Iqbal Airport a little before 08:00 am, carrying 308 passengers. While another Saudi airlines flight SVA 732, with over 300 passengers onboard, landed at the Lahore airport ten minutes past its scheduled time.
Relatives of the stranded pilgrims opted to stay at the Lahore airport till the flights carrying their family members landed. Soon after their arrival, the pilgrims vented their frustration at the Pakistani Embassy in Saudi Arabia, saying officials there did nothing to help them out.
“A Pakistani embassy official there told us they were working to get us [the pilgrims] out of the situation, but we could see nothing was happening,” said Nadeem Shahid, a pilgrim.
“Our tickets were confirmed, yet the Saudi airlines crew would not issue us boarding passes, citing “technical” reasons. They wouldn’t give us any information and asked us to wait till the flight departed … the flight time changed several times but it didn’t depart for seven days,” he said.
“We weren’t provided any food by the Saudi government or the airline management, and not one official of the Pakistan embassy contacted us while we were stuck there,” said Muhammad Afzal, another pilgrim. “This was my first Umrah and I was anxious to celebrate Eid with all my family members but could not due to the mismanagement of the airline staff”, Afzal added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.
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