LAHORE - Out of total about 1,43000 Haj pilgrims, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will transport more than 50,000 intending-Hajis to holy Land of Saudi Arabia and flight operation will commence from August 4, 2016, said  a spokesman of national carrier on Wednesday.

While other airlines including Shaheen, Airblue and Saudi Arabian national carrier will transport over 90,000 pilgrims. A month-long pre-Haj operation, of taking pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, will commence from August 4 when the first flight will take off from Islamabad. The operation will end on September 5, said spokesperson Danyal Gilani while talking to The Nation.

Similarly, the post-Haj operation, of bringing pilgrims back home, will start immediately after Haj from September 16 and will last till October 17.

Two local private airlines, Shaheen Air and Airblue, will also be flying pilgrims. Saudi Arabian Airlines is the fourth carrier.

The government has also reduced Haj fare by Rs 120 from Rs. 264, 971 charged per pilgrim last year to Rs 264,851 this year.

As per Religious Affairs Ministry as many as 143,368 pilgrims will perform Haj this year. Out of which larger share for the government-operated Haj scheme this year increased to 60 per cent. Consequently, the share of private tour operators was cut to just 40 per cent. Previously, the government has operated at a 50-50 share with private tour operators.

The move apparently is part of the government’s reaction to complaints against private tour operators.

Joint Secretary at the Religious Affairs Ministry Ilyas Khan said that the government had blacklisted as many as five private tour companies based on pilgrims complaints.

He said that the govt will strictly monitor private tour operators this year. “Our preparations are complete. We were waiting for the announcement of the schedule (of PIA),” Noor Zaman, a spokesperson for the Religious Affairs Ministry said.

Flights will be operated from Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, Multan, Rahimyar Khan and Sukkur.

Around 450 welfare medical staff including units from police, Pakistan Army and other Ministries would be deputed with the pilgrims.

There were speculations among different aviation circles that Shaheen airlines management has presented its apology to take part in the coming Haj operation. But a CAA senior officer seeking anonymity said that Shaheen Airline will take part in the Haj operation as usual.

A CAA officer deputed at Allama Iqbal International Airport (AIIAP) said, “We

are fully ready to facilitate Hajis travilling from (AIIAP)”.