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The sea of pilgrims in Mina in last year's haj. NSTP/COURTESY OF TABUNG HAJI
The sea of pilgrims in Mina in last year's haj. NSTP/COURTESY OF TABUNG HAJI

MAKKAH: EACH time I learn someone is going for the haj via the private package, I will think to myself that person must have a fat bank account.

I believe if one wants to be nearer to Masjidil Haram to perform prayers, one should be able to cough up about RM180,000 to stay at hotels located 100m or less from the Grand Mosque.

This was the highest amount recorded by Tabung Haji’s (TH) Haj Package Organiser division for this year and the lowest was at RM24,560.

Its operations director, Mat Admara Alang Azizdin, listed out other benefits of going under the special packages including getting the option to choose the number of roommates and buffet meals and tents located closer to the Jamarat Complex for the stoning of the devil ritual.

He also said pilgrims who opted to perform the haj through private packages had helped to reduce the subsidy cost for TH.

“Last year, Tabung Haji saved nearly RM80 million from those who opted for the private packages,” he said.

It was reported 6,404 pilgrims performed the fifth pillar of Islam via such packages last year, 5,021 in 2017 and 2,300 in 2016.

Mat Admara made it clear that pilgrims who chose to use the private packages were those who had received an offer letter from TH, stating that it was their turn to perform the haj under the queue system.

He said those who frequently performed the haj had secured the urada visa from the Saudi Arabian embassy and not from Malaysia’s haj quota.

“The furada visa holders cannot use TH facilities, whereas Malaysian pilgrims undertaking the private packages can use our facilities like clinics, counselling services and Talian Ibadah (worship hotline).”

On how much each private haj operator had to pay TH, Mat Admara said they paid RM500 for every pilgrim they had.

“To ensure things are in accordance with regulations and the pilgrims’ wellbeing is taken care of, we have formed monitoring teams in Makkah and Madinah. This was made possible from the RM500 fee.”

This year, Mat Admara said 6,140 pilgrims had opted to perform their haj under the private packages offered by 22 companies.

He said the companies must comply with a set of requirements when they are given operating licences by TH.

One of them is that the company must have no fewer than 50 pilgrims and if they do not have enough for two years straight, they are not allowed to apply for a licence for the subsequent three years. Private haj operators must also fulfil all the things they had promised in their brochures.

“We have a team of 10 people to monitor things on the ground.”

He cautioned Malaysian pilgrims to be aware of fake private haj operators by referring to the TH website for the list of legitimate companies.

The perks of going via the private packages are tempting. But I need to fatten up my bank account first for this to happen.

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