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A successful Hajj Season 2022 at King Abdulaziz International Airport

Ayman Abo Abah, CEO for Jeddah Airports Company, tells International Airport Review how its airport prepared to receive over 450,000 pilgrims for the annual Hajj pilgrimage through its ‘Hajj Plan’.

The Hajj is the annual religious pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca undertaken by millions of Muslims worldwide each year. It takes place in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, known as the Hajj season, between the 8th and 13th days of the year. Participation in the pilgrimage takes place at least once in a lifetime, and between two and three million people take part in the six-day ritual each year.

This year, one million pilgrims travelled to the Holy City. Eighty-five per cent of the pilgrims came from abroad for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on participation, introduced to minimise the spread of viral infections among pilgrims, led to a two-year hiatus. The Saudi government ensures smooth and safe journey for all pilgrims, many of whom travel to and from airports near Mecca.

Most pilgrims arriving by air do so at King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport (MED) in Medina. More than 850,000 pilgrims flew in and out by plane this year, 450,000 of them via Jeddah Airport.

The ‘Hajj Plan’

Major events such as the Hajj pilgrimage present unique challenges for the airport. First, there is an intense arrival phase when pilgrims arrive to complete the Hajj and a complex bus and transport operation. This is followed by an intense departure phase that can put pressure on airport facilities that operate on a fixed schedule – from luggage trolleys to baggage and passenger screening. JED was built expressly for this sharp increase in passenger numbers, aircraft movements and baggage. The airport must ensure smooth and safe travel during the Hajj season.