With Matthew Denis
Ilorin International Airport recorded an increase in the number of flights to Saudi Arabia for the first time, in the 2017 hajj operations.
For last year hajj, there were only five airlifting which was operated exclusively by Flynas, a Saudi airline.
Two domestic airlines, Max Air and Medview Airline engaged for this year’s operation operated nine flights from Ilorin airport while a total of 2, 960 intending pilgrims from Ilorin zone were airlifted to Saudi Arabia.
The zone as delineated by the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) comprised of Ondo, 303; Ekiti, 172 and Kwara 2,468
Recall that this medium had reported that 2,540 intending pilgrims were airlifted from Ilorin zone for the 2016 hajj operations.
A breakdown of this year’s hajj operations released by the Corporate Affairs Unit of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Ilorin to Pilot Aviation on Friday, revealed that the first batch of 463 intending pilgrims were airlifted by Medview Airline, second set of 215 travelled with same airline, while the third batch had 539 pilgrims onboard Max Air ,all on August 03, 2017.
The Fourth batch operated on August 05, 2017 had 560 passengers onboard Max Air, fifth batch of 462 travelled with Medview on August 07, 2017 while the sixth batch of 140 pilgrims were airlifted by Max Air on August 08, 2017.
The seventh batch of 221 pilgrims were airlifted on 14 August, 2017, eighth batch recorded 224 passengers onboard Medview on August 17th and the ninth batch of 139 pilgrims were airlifted by same airline same day.
Speaking to Pilot Aviation last Saturday, the Executive Secretary of Kwara state Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Tunde Jimoh, said that the operations had been smooth with the pilgrims complying to directives.
He said ” the screening exercise and airlifts have been successful. Our intending pilgrims cooperated with the security agencies and complied with our instructions as no contraband was caught with any of them.
The Executive Secretary called on the pilgrims to adhere to the rules and be good ambassadors of Kwara and Nigeria at large.
He also urged them to pray for the state and President Buhari while performing the hajj and for peace and tolerance in the country.
In an interview, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, thanked Almighty Allah for the success of ilorin zone operations.
He stressed that the successful airlift reflects the sincerity of the airline, which he described as passengers’ ‘on time airline ‘ in the country.
The CEO said,” We appreciate the Kwara state government for granting us the honour to be one of the airlines for the airlift operation from the state and our assurance is quality service as we are known for.”
Also, the Operations Officer of Max Air, Lawan Muneer noted that the operations from Ilorin had been hitch free. According to him, the airline has been airlifting pilgrims across the country, especially in northern Nigeria and offering effective service for smooth exercise.
On his part, the state Amir Hajj, Professor Suleiman Jamiu, submitted that the pilgrimage is one of the five pillars that every dedicated Muslim needs to observe in life.
He appreciated the executive Governor of Kwara state, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed for his support since the commencement of the airlifting of the pilgrims to the end of the exercise.