THAI resumes pilgrimage flights

THAI resumes pilgrimage flights

Thai Airways aircraft are parked at Suvarnabhumi airport, Samut Prakan province. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Thai Airways aircraft are parked at Suvarnabhumi airport, Samut Prakan province. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Thai Airways International (THAI) has resumed operating passenger flights to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims during the Hajj.

The service has returned following a two-year suspension amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Korakot Chatasingha, Sales Director at THAI, said the airline will operate nine round-trip flights departing from Suvarnabhumi, Narathiwat and Hat Yai airports to Jeddah and Medina.

Departing flights were set for June 10 to 13 and June 29 to July 3 with return flights from July 18 to 21 and Aug 8 to 12, he said. A total of 2,508 pilgrims will use the service, he said.

According to the airline, the Saudi government had set a quota of 5,885 Thais to join the Muslim pilgrimage this year.

However, only 3,738 people were eligible after Riyadh imposed an age limit barring people over 65 years old due to Covid-19 concerns, the airline said.

The quota must be shared between THAI and the Saudi Arabian airline Saudia, it said. However, Saudia told THAI that it can only handle 1,230 passengers. THAI has been flying Muslim pilgrims to Mecca since 2005.

The government has financially backed pilgrims from the deep South so they can charter flights from Narathiwat airport.

Meanwhile, Suvarnabhumi airport has opened 318 check-in counters and self-check-in kiosks to handle rising passenger numbers, it said.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, the airport general manager, said Suvarnabhumi is expected to handle about 240 international and 220 domestic flights per day, comprising about 42,000 international and 28,000 local passengers.

The airport sees more than 70,000 travellers a day and the number may reach 100,000 in October, he said.

Mr Kittipong said the number of passengers rose threefold since April, when the airport handled about 30,000 passengers a day.

He attributed the hike to the government's easing of Covid-19 measures since early this month and people's confidence in the travel industry.

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