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Sat 30 Jun 2012 10:27 AM

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Saudi pilgrims to win payouts for flight delays

British pilgrims association welcomes new airline directive as 'long awaited'

Saudi pilgrims to win payouts for flight delays
An aerial view shows Muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage rituals. (AFP/Getty Images)

Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will be compensated if their flights are delayed or cancelled, according to new guidelines issued by the kingdom's General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA).

The move has been welcomed by the Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK (ABH) which said the directive to airlines was "long awaited".

Under the new guidelines, airlines will be responsible to give compensation for delayed and cancelled flights.

The amount of compensation decided by GACA will have to be paid by the respective airline within a month, ABH said in a statement.

If they fail to pay the compensation within the specific time, they will have to pay the air travellers SR1,500 extra for each delayed day, the statement added.

The compensation includes flight delays, loss of baggage and other violations.

Passengers will be provided with free accommodation and meals in case of flight delay.

Airlines have been asked by the Saudi authorities to cut down on the number of cancelled flights and inform passengers about any cancellation as early as possible.

Khalid Pervez, general secretary, ABH, said: "This was a long awaited directive from the GACA which is extremely vital to address the chaotic situation seen specifically during the Hajj period where every year thousands of pilgrims suffer extreme pain, misery, and mental anguish due to delays and cancellations of flights, poor management, and other violations by some airlines."

The association also urged Saudi authorities to investigate and address the issue of "severe exploitation" of Hajj/Umrah pilgrims by some airlines.

"These airlines and their appointed travel agencies are specifically targeting Hajj/Umrah pilgrims and force them to pay extortionary prices for their airline tickets compared to travelling the same distance to any other destination in the world," the statement said.

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