Iran Air to operate 75% of Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia: Official

Tasnim – Iran Air will operate three fourth of this year’s Hajj flights from different cities in Iran to Saudi Arabia, the representative of Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Hajj and pilgrimage affairs announced.

Speaking at a gathering of people from the central city of Isfahan who will make the Hajj pilgrimage this year, Seyed Ali Qazi-Askar said according to an agreement between Tehran and Riyadh, it had been planned that Iranian airlines would operate half of the Hajj flights from Iran and Saudi airlines would carry out the rest of the flights.

However, Saudi Arabia announced recently that it is not able to operate all of the Hajj flights it had undertaken, he said, adding that the decision was to the benefit of the Islamic Republic.

The official went on to say that following coordination with Iran Air, it will operate about three fourth of the flights.

As many as 86,500 Iranian pilgrims will travel to the kingdom for Hajj this year.

Iran announced in mid-March that applicants can go on Hajj pilgrimage this year following negotiations with Saudi officials after a hiatus in the wake of a diplomatic row with the kingdom.

In 2016, more than 1.8 million pilgrims attended Hajj, but Iranians stayed at home after tensions between Riyadh and Tehran boiled over following a deadly crush of people during the 2015 pilgrimage.

On September 24, 2015, thousands of people lost their lives in the deadly crush after Saudi authorities blocked a road in Mina during a ritual, forcing large crowds of pilgrims to collide.

The crush was the deadliest incident in the history of the pilgrimage. According to an Associated Press count based on official statements from the 36 countries that lost citizens in the disaster, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in the incident.

Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed, but officials at Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including over 460 Iranian pilgrims, lost their lives.