Travellers looking to book their Hajj pilgrimage this August, are being warned to stay clear of deals that seem to good to be true.
With over 25,000 British Muslims expected to make the Hajj pilgrimage this August, the Civil Aviation Authority is launching a campaign to ensure that this often once in a lifetime trip is not scuppered by booking through a disreputable company, or those falsely posing as reputable travel agents. The Civil Aviation Authority’s campaign is working to protect travellers after an increasing trend in the sale of illegal or fake package deals. In the worst cases, these illegal vendors have been prosecuted and imprisoned.
By researching, using a trustworthy and reputable company that will provide you with ATOL protection, consumers can travel with peace of mind.
Paul Smith, Director at the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “As we enter the busy booking period for Hajj travel, we are reminding consumers to research who they are planning to book with to ensure their important trip is protected. Using a recommended travel agent is helpful, but it is vital to check that your provider is ATOL protected despite any recommendation you may receive.”
What is the Hajj Pilgrimage ?
Every year millions of Muslims from around the world travel to Saudi Arabia to complete the Hajj Pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. The journey is seen as one of the five pillars of Islam which is central to the faith. Pilgrims spend five days praying in Mecca. It is a spiritual pilgrimage that every adult Muslim must perform at least once in their lives in order to be closer to god. In 2017, the number of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform hajj was officially reported as 1,752,014 and 600,108 Saudi Arabian residents bringing the total number of pilgrims to 2,352,122.
Every year, pilgrims pay thousands of pounds for specialist Hajj flights and accommodation only for some to end up with non-existent journeys because fraudulent scammers pocket the cash, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). In other cases, agents are simply incompetent, so pilgrims end up with sub-standard trips. The issue is particularly prominent with Hajj as many book via local community agents, who may be unlicensed.
Before you book any pilgrimage, trip or holiday, make sure your agent is ABTA licenced. This will protect you if the company goes bust or you have a negative experience. And if you are a victim of fraud, you should report it to your local Trading Standards.
Always follow our top five Hajj travel tips:
- Check for ATOL protection: Look for the ATOL logo on your travel company’s website, brochure or shop front.
- Research your trip: Some companies will incorrectly claim to have ATOL protection. Check the company’s name on the online database at: www.packpeaceofmind.co.uk.
- Check if your package includes a visa: Appoint a licensed travel agent and ensure that they are arranging a visa as part of your arrangements.
- Watch out for hidden costs: Make sure you check the airport and accommodation fees, such as baggage allowance and accommodation transfers, to avoid any surprises.
- Check financial protection if booking with non-UK travel companies: There are some non-UK travel companies which offer Hajj travel to UK consumers, but these will often not be ATOL protected. Do your research and check what financial protection they provide.