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Bradford travel agencies pay out on Hajj flight woe
Two Bradford travel firms say they have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after an airline left 266 Hajj pilgrims grounded.
Sky-Fly Connections and Al Noor Travel and Tours had arranged for the passengers to fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from Leeds-Bradford Airport.
But the Thailand-based Business Air plane that was supposed to take them was grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority last Wednesday because it did not have the required paperwork.
The jet was told to leave the airport without passengers.
Both Sky-Fly and Al Noor said their upset passengers had been let down by Business Air – not them.
Sohail Bhatti, manager at the family-run Sky-Fly Connections, said his firm was about £15,000 out of pocket. He said about £11,000 went on hotel rooms.
Sky-Fly had to put 107 people up in hotels for two nights with people living locally returning to their homes.
Mr Bhatti said: “We have paid for everything. We have paid for coaches to take people home, coaches to hotels, and hotel food.”
He said 182 passengers flew to Jeddah from Leeds-Bradford at 12.30pm yesterday with Greek airline Hermes. Sky-Fly secured and paid for flights from Manchester and Heathrow on Thursday for the other 184 passengers.
He said: “All the passengers seemed happy. They had been paid expenses and provided with food. They have not lost any money, just a day-and-a-half of their trip.
“They know the Hajj is a very spiritual journey. It is a journey of tests all the way.”
He said Sky-Fly would try to claim the money back from Business Air, and added: “We regularly charter for Hajj pilgrimages every year. The last four or five years we have used Jet2, but they pulled out this year.”
Ibrar Mahmood, of family-run Al Noor in Killinghall Road, said it had been a nightmare trying to find alternative flights to get the stranded passengers on their way to Jeddah.
Speaking last night, Mr Mahmood said: “It’s been unbelievable trying to sort this mess out.
“It wasn’t our fault. We booked the tour through Sky-Fly which was responsible for booking the airline. It’s the airline’s fault. We don’t know exactly what went wrong but it was something to do with paperwork.
“It’s cost us thousands of pounds.”
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