Ramadan Umrah: insufficient flights, travel agencies up against the wall

After bearing the brunt of the repercussions of Covid-19, travel agencies are not at the end of their sentence. Having massively sold Umrah packs without first having plane ticket reservations, they find themselves up against the wall. Due to several factors, flights to Saudi Arabia will not be numerous this year. As a result, they must reimburse their customers. Worse still, some of them had taken the risk of taking hotel reservations. Having suffered the brunt of the repercussions of Covid-19, travel agencies are not at the end of their sentence. The lack of special flights mobilized to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah of the month of Ramadan puts them in a bad position vis-à-vis their customers. After the reopening of the Moroccan borders and the lifting of restrictions on access to the host country, several travel agencies hastened to sell Umrah “packs”, without first having plane ticket reservations. As a result, they are unable to offer their customers the promised trip and are thus forced to reimburse them. Worse still, some of them took the risk of taking hotel reservations. “The situation is catastrophic. The agencies are now up against the wall because of the lack of additional air flights. With the exception of three charter flights mobilized by Royal Air Maroc from Fez, Oujda and Agadir, there are only scheduled flights. Places are limited and almost impossible to find, because a large part of the seats has already been reserved, especially by individuals. Even if the demand is not substantial, places are not available. Agencies that have already sold Umrah packs must reimburse their customers. Some of them risk a lot, because they have already paid for hotel reservations,” said Imane Lamrini, president of the Regional Association of Travel Agencies of Rabat-Salé-Kénitra. Contacted for more details, Mohamed Semlali, president of the National Federation of Travel Agencies of Morocco, said that the current state of affairs is the result of a combination of circumstances, thus refusing to hold the companies responsible. aerial. “You have to be honest. The sector is now emerging from a crisis that lasted two years and cannot take off immediately. The situation is very complex. Admittedly, the agencies had nurtured the hope of resuming activity after several positive signals, in particular the opening of the borders, but the sector still faces several constraints. On the one hand, there is the problem of the lack of flights and, on the other hand, the closure of a large part of the hotels, particularly those in Medina. And then, we must not forget that the world is going through a difficult crisis, accentuated by the Russian-Ukrainian war,” he explains. According to Mohamed Semlali, the Federation has already sent correspondence to Royal Air Maroc and Saudi Arabian Airlines, calling for chartering more planes, but these companies replied that they did not have sufficient aircraft to mobilize for additional flights. “Travel agencies had to respect the rules of ethics and inform their customers that the programs offered are provisional and risk being subject to changes or even cancellations. And that's what we see today. Several agencies are forced to cancel their trips because ticket prices have reached astronomical amounts of up to 19,000 dirhams/seat for a regular direct flight. The only solution that remains today is to buy tickets for indirect flights from other companies, such as Qatar Airways or Egypt Air,” he concludes.