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Private Hajj pilgrims must pay for flight tickets in dollars. Photo: The News/File

KARACHI: For the first time in the country’s history, the national airline – Pakistan International Airline (PIA) – will charge plane tickets in dollars to Hajj pilgrims traveling on a private plane.

Air fares for pilgrims from the Southern Region and the Northern Region will likely remain within the range of $810-$1,100 and $860-$1,150 respectively. The airline had priced fares in dollars a year and a half ago, but due to pandemic restrictions, Muslims around the world have not been allowed to perform Haj for two years.

The airline claimed that dollar fares would eliminate discrepancies, as its tickets were also purchased overseas. However, PIA will charge the fixed amount of Rs. 181,000 for the return ticket to pilgrims traveling on the government program.

The airline is expected to carry about 14,000 pilgrims over the government quota and about 16,000 private pilgrims during this Haj season. Pakistan has a quota of 81,000 pilgrims and normally the government takes 60% of the quota itself and allocates the rest to private operators.

Sources said the government has received few applications this year and only 37,000 pilgrims will go through the government scheme while the rest of the quota will be allocated to private operators.

Flights from Pakistan to Medina and Jeddah for the Haj operation were previously scheduled to operate from May 31 to July 3. However, the Haj operation has been delayed for a week, as the government has yet to announce the Haj policy. The post-Haj operation would run from July 14 to August 13.

Haj government policy determines the strength of people going through the government program or through private operators. It also determines the pilgrims from each city and the quota for airlines and private Haj operators.