Airlines transporting haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia are being forced to pay a minimum SR600,000 ($160,000) as a guarantee they will return all passengers by the end of the season, Arabian Business has reported.
The total value of the bond will depend on the number of haj passengers and the cost of a one-way ticket from Jeddah to the pilgrim’s country of origin, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) said.
Airlines must pay the money into a Saudi financial institution and give the bank guarantee to GACA, which has the authority to deduct the cost of returning any pilgrim not flown out of the country by the end of the haj season.
Millions of pilgrims are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage, which this year is expected to fall mid-October.
However, the government has limited the number of foreign pilgrims to Makkah by 20 percent and Saudi pilgrims by 50 percent due to ongoing construction work as part of its $21bn expansion of Islam’s holiest mosque. The expansion is expected to increase the mosque’s capacity to 2m pilgrims.