Management of Umrah

I don't remember when you were younger - in those days, there was uncertainty when the hajj flight is going to take place. There would be like rumours what the flight dates were and how you have to be prepared. Most see it as the trials and tribulations of going to hajj. It would not be the same if the flights are confirmed and there was no uncertainty. You take the fun out of it. Umrah in those days were unheard of. Nobody goes on umrah. My brother went in the late 1970s with a friend of his and it would be almost a decade later before any of us actually went again.

My parents and my sister recently signed up with a particularly well known travel and umrah agent h*h for their umrah. I thought it was an interesting experience on their part. First of all, they did not know when the flight will take place. After that, not only did not know when the flight will take place, they did not even know if the flight will ever take place - apparently the Saudis have not extended out umrah visas just yet but it seemed that you can go there on a tourist visa. I am not going to work out the logic but middle eastern people seemed to be experts at this kind of thing. In the meantime all 100+ people who have signed up for the umrah just waited.

Then one day before the flight, everyone was informed that the flight will finally take place by Royal Brunei Airlines from Brunei to Jeddah ...through an overnight stay in Singapore... Huh? Again, don't explain the logic, how anyone can get tickets to Jeddah in Singapore but not from Brunei. So they went and they arrived and they performed the umrah.

So it is now our turn to wait for them to come back. My sister sms me that they will not be returning on their scheduled flight but on a later flight about a couple of days late but surprise, surprise, their bags will actually make it on the scheduled flight. So we were supposed to go to the airport yesterday to collect their bags only to be informed that the agent will do it as we were not allowed in anyway. My parents and my sister themselves are supposed to be arriving later today. My dad later told me that there was a problem due to the passenger listing, a couple of ladies who were supposed to be on the flight was not on the flight, so the authorities wanted to know where they were. Apparently they did not board from Singapore and so now they have to be flown in and to return with the group!

I used to sit in the Umrah and Haj Management Policy Committee at the Religious Affairs Ministry. At that point in time, the biggest issue was the sub-$1000 umrah which is causing an uproar among other umrah agents as they were losing customers. They wanted it controlled. My sense was - hey, this is competition (I am a firm believer of free markets). People want to pay sub-$1000 for an umrah, go ahead. Just don't expect hotels near the Masjidil Haram or fantastic buffet dinners. Apparently too many people like paying sub-$1000 umrah and the company running it went into trouble to the point of stranding Bruneians in Jeddah. RBA had to be flown in and rescued some hundreds of Bruneians. There was a lot of complaints, but to me when you pay substandard prices, you expect substandard services.

For my parents' and my sister's predicaments, I am not sure who to blame as they certainly did not pay substandard prices, if anything, I would say they were overcharged. But if this is an indication of how even well known travel agents can fluff an umrah despite already charging an arm and a leg, then I would seriously say we have to start thinking of how to regulate it somehow but not at the expense of competition. Unfortunately I am not in that committee anymore, that would be a great place to start.


Anonymous said…
They should have used Darussalam as their Umrah provider. But it does take away the fun of uncertainty. If thats fun at all.
Yousaf said…
Management of Umrah and Hajj is perfect in my sense but if you get cheap umrah packages i think you must like it.
Noor said…
Great post! Thanks for sharing. Really very informative and very useful post about Umrah Management. I like it. Thanks a lot for sharing...........

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