After keeping it in abeyance for 15 years, the government on Monday hiked the airfare for Haj pilgrims by Rs 4,000. The fare will now be Rs 16,000.
The cabinet decision, which came immediately after the assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, would reduce the burden on the state exchequer significantly as the government used to pay about Rs 400-450 crore every year to Air India as subsidy.
While the total cost of Haj operations was estimated to be more than Rs 600 crore, the pilgrims’ airfare amounted to Rs 150 crore only.
“Every Haj pilgrim would pay only Rs 16,000 as fare. The remaining fare would be borne by the Government of India,” said an official statement.
The hike has been necessitated by an increase in the prices of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) globally. According to the aviation ministry, the hike in ATF had increased the operational cost of flying pilgrims from Rs 178,000 to Rs 211,000 per hour, an addition of Rs 33,000 an hour.
However, the Haj Committee of India (HCoI)), a government undertaking that makes arrangements for the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, didn’t comment on the move. “We have no such information. We are yet to receive the order,” a Mumbai-based HCoI official told HT.
About 123,211 pilgrims, who would perform Haj under the government subsidy scheme this year, have already paid an airfare of Rs 12,000. The remaining amount would be charged once they return from the pilgrimage.