Corporate News

By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

Saudia to launch Davao flights for Hajj pilgrims

Posted on September 08, 2016

DAVAO CITY -- Jeddah-based Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) will start operating chartered flights directly from Davao City starting next year for delegates of the Hajj, the Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca Sept. 6. -- REUTERS
“Saudia would have started flying Hajj delegates from Davao starting this year but with the short preparation time, it decided to start next year,” Marilou W. Ampuan, chairperson of the Halal Committee of the Tourism Congress of the Philippine’s national secretariat, said in an interview.

Ms. Ampuan said Saudia is looking at chartering four trips from Davao City between late August to September.

The city’s 60 Hajj delegates departed on Aug. 22 on a Philippine Airlines plane.

“Saudia Airline is also excited to ferry Hajj delegates straight from Davao City to Medina and Jeddah beginning next year,” she said, noting that up to 12,000 Hajj delegates are expected from around the Philippines.

With Davao airport becoming a hub for the Hajj pilgrimage, Ms. Ampuan noted more Muslims from Mindanao will be able to embark on that pilgrimage as the airfare will be cheaper without the cost of flying to Manila.

“They will be able to save 5% of their total expenses when they take the trip from Davao instead of Manila,” she said, noting that the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos jointly worked on getting the direct flights.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ampuan said the direct passenger service should also signal to the world that Davao and Mindanao are ready to cater to the $3-trillion world halal market.

“Halal involves almost everything from food, services and other products,” she said.

The halal development program has recently been turned over to the Department of Trade and Industry from the DoT.

On the local front, Ms. Ampuan said the Mindanao Islamic Chamber of Commerce has assisted the city’s leading hotels in setting up services that meet the basic needs of Muslim clients such as providing information on the schedule of prayers.

“Compared to Malaysia where sunset is at 7-8 in the evening, sunset here in the Philippines is earlier at 5-6 p.m. and they need to know that since we Muslims pray five times a day,” she said.