Controversy has trailed current moves by Max Air to airlift 52,000 Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, for this year’s hajj exercise.
The airline is one of the three major carriers expected to transport about 76,000 pilgrims from 12 designated airports nationwide. Other air carriers expected to win slots for this year’s Hajj operations include Kabo and Medview arlines.
Our investigation revealed that the plan by the Max Air to airlift 52,000 pilgrims to this year’s hajj, if allowed, violates the tender advertised by the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) earlier in the year.
The commission, through the tender, had provided that no carrier should airlift more than 40,000 pilgrims from the designated airports nationwide.
According to the commission, the provisions to qualify prospective carriers, as listed in the tender, prospective air carriers must have Air Operators Certificate (AOC), evidence of registration or incorporation and evidence of non-indebtedness to any regulatory agency in the aviation sector.
Further investigation revealed, however, that Max Air, which has met most of the requirements for qualification, is the first choice of several state Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Boards, leading to chances of violation of the 40,000 maximum number of pilgrims to be airlifted by each carrier this year.
Max Air, a relatively new player in the aviation sector, boasts of five Boeing 747 aircraft in its fleet, giving it an edge over others, with its capacity to airlift more than half of the 76,000 intending pilgrims for this year’s hajj in Nigeria.
Sources indicate that Meridian Airlines may be knocked off for allegedly not having the AOC, one of the basic requirements to qualify for the operation.
Responding to our inquiries about this development, Max Air’s spokesman, Ibrahim Dahiru, reiterated the airline’s capacity to complete airlifting of its pilgrims to and from the holy land on time, despite the large number of pilgrims allocated to it.
“I assure you that we have the capacity and competence to accomplish the task. We are the only airline with a fleet of five Boeing 747s. We can airlift 15,000 pilgrims in three weeks”, he told our reporter on telephone.
However, the National Hajj Commission’s (NAHCON) spokesman, Uba Mana, while responding to inquiries, refuted the claim that Max Air will airlift 52,000 pilgrims to this year’s hajj. “This is not true”, he said, adding that: “Who will airlift what number of pilgrims for this year’s hajj exercise is not even made public. Where did you get this information? NAHCON will not subvert its own provisions”.
He however assured that the Commission would soon make its position on the matter known.
Sources close to one of the commissioners in NAHCON also refuted the assertion that Max Air got the lion share of pilgrims for the airlift exercise, saying: “If that is the case, it is a violation of the provisions”.
Our investigation revealed that among the 12 airports designated for the airlift of pilgrims to this year’s hajj exercise are Kano, Lagos, Minna, Kaduna and Yola airports.
Further investigation revealed that the inaugural outbound flight is scheduled for the last week of August.