New return flights arranged for Singaporeans in Mecca

Close to 300 Singaporeans who are in Mecca for umrah, or a minor pilgrimage, are scheduled to return on alternative airlines after Qatar Airways' licence was revoked by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

Mr Mustafa Jumat, vice-president of the Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore (Amtas), told The Straits Times yesterday that most Singaporeans have settled their return flight details. They also did not experience any major disruptions to their travel plans.

"Qatar Airways assisted them and directed them to alternative airlines," said Mr Jumat.

Some of these alternatives include Malaysia Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Emirates.

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Although the schedules of Singaporeans in Mecca are largely unaffected, their return flight routes will differ. They will have stopovers at Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, depending on the airline they take.

The disruptions started on Tuesday, when Saudi Arabia revoked Qatar Airways' licences and ordered it to close its offices within 48 hours. The move came amid a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a powerful bloc in the Arab world - Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - which are accusing it of supporting terrorism across the region.

On its website, Qatar Airways indicated that it will be suspending all flights to the four states "until further notice". Separately, two Etihad Airways' flights scheduled to fly from Singapore to the UAE will continue as scheduled.

The disruptions started on Tuesday, when Saudi Arabia revoked Qatar Airways' licences and ordered it to close its offices within 48 hours. The move came amid a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a powerful bloc in the Arab world - Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - who are accusing it of supporting terrorism across the region.

Local travel agencies contacted also said that they were not affected by the rift.

Should the ban continue, Mr Jumat said that alternative travel plans may be required for groups scheduled to go on pilgrimages in October and November.

"We are currently in talks with Qatar Airlines, but no one knows how it will pan out," he said, adding that Amtas will be closely monitoring the situation.

When contacted, Emirates and Qatar Airways said travellers should refer to their websites for update information.

"Other than those suspended, all other flights from Singapore are running smoothly with no delays," Qatar Airways told ST.

• Additional reporting by Revathi Valluvar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2017, with the headline 'New return flights arranged for Singaporeans in Mecca'. Print Edition | Subscribe