Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia says technical challenges on the part of flight operators in Saudi Arabia are to blame for the failure to airlift the first batch of 2017 Hajj pilgrims as scheduled.
At least over 500 pilgrims were left stranded at the Tamale International Airport Thursday, after the flight they were supposed to travel in failed to show up.
The pilgrims were told to prepare for a take-off at 5pm last night but this was changed to 8pm on the same day, a frustrated Pilgrim told Myjoyonline.com.
With some sitting astride and others in pensive mood, the pilgrims said the 2017 Holy journey to Mecca might not be different from the previous ones which were fraught with issues.
The setback comes a day after the Vice President in the company of Hajj Board leadership, promised to eliminate issues that bedeviled past events.
But a major challenge in last year’s Hajj – flight delay – has crawled into this year’s programme.
“We were forced to sit through the night with mosquitoes biting us here,” another Pilgrim said.
But Dr Bawumia said the challenge was caused by a technical issue with the flight assigned to Ghanaian pilgrims by Saudi Arabia government.
“We were supposed to have a plane, but when the plane [took] off from Saudi Arabia, a fault was detected after 45 minutes in the air,” he said, adding the plane was asked to return.
He said a new flight was immediately dispatched to Accra for Ghanaian pilgrims.
But minutes after he had appealed to the people at the Tamale International Airport, the new plane touched down.
The Lion Air plane arrived at 6:45pm, Myjoyonline.com has gathered.
The Minority in Parliament has urged the Hajj Board and government to facilitate the event in a manner that will not inconvenient the already frustrated pilgrams.
The NDC MPs in a statement want the Board to be "candid with our suffering and anxious pilgrims" in the course of the programme.
Watch the arrival of the Lion Air flight