Expats fume over Air India’s decision to ban Zamzam water

khaleejtimes, 08-07-2019 21:42:24

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Expats fume over Air India’s decision to ban Zamzam water

The ban was announced through a memo that was circulated among Air India’s travel agents last week.

Indian expats travelling for Haj this year have expressed their indignation over Air India’s (AI) decision to ban Zamzam holy water cans on its narrow-body aircraft. Travellers are reportedly allowed to carry them only on flights where twin-aisle aircraft are used.

The ban was announced through a memo that was circulated among its travel agents last week, taking effect immediately. It will remain in place until September 15 and shall be applied on flights AI966 (Jeddah/Hyderabad/Mumbai) and AI964 (Jeddah/Cochin), according to the memo. Officials reportedly cited "change of aircraft and seat limitation" as the main reasons.

Two Haj pilgrims in the UAE said it was "very unfair".

"We bring the Zamzam water from the pilgrimage so that we can distribute it among our friends and relatives and share the blessings," said Indian expat Fathimath Manal.

Rahiya Salim, a Sharjah resident, said: "I have never heard of such a thing all these years. I will be going on my third Haj this year. Bringing home the Zamzam water is a custom among Muslims. We keep them for use in religious ceremonies."

An AI official, who requested anonymity, confirmed to Khaleej Times that "the ban was put in place for narrow-body aircraft due to space constraints". However, the official said the issue is being "discussed internally".

Another official of the airline said that in 2014, an agreement had been put in place to directly transport bottles of Zamzam from Jeddah to India and distribute them to the pilgrims upon their return. However, he did not clarify whether the practice is still being observed.

"We are working towards resolving the matter," added the official. He clarified that majority of AI flights from India to Saudi Arabia - especially from major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi - are operated on wide-body aircraft, where Zamzam water is allowed on board.

Haj is considered the world’s largest human gathering, recording almost 2.4 million pilgrims in 2018.

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