PETALING JAYA – IT manager Khamis (not his real name) signed up with the travel agency now embroiled in a case where a group of 453 Malaysian umrah pilgrims are stranded in Saudi Arabia.
He lodged a police report against the travel company on Dec 22 after he was told his Dec 21 flight there had been postponed to Dec 31.
Now, all flights for umrah packages for Khamis and his group with the company for 2017 have been cancelled, according to their WhatsApp group chatlogs seen by The Star yesterday.
The pilgrims’ passports and cash are still being held by the company, Khamis said.
Khamis said his sister-in-law had introduced him to the package. It was priced at RM6,800 per person, but was offered at RM3,800, with the remainder being “sponsored”.
It was the same one offered to the 453 pilgrims. The offer was made by a well-known preacher, he said.
He admitted that he did not check whether the company had a Special Umrah Licence (LKU).
“But I felt reassured by the religious personality, so I went along,” he added.
A woman from Kajang who was in the same group with Khamis also admitted that she did not make a check when she saw the offer made by the personality.
“My family and I bought packages for four and we were told not to worry about the price and to just focus on the RM3,800,” she said.
In a press statement, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) vice-president (Umrah and Haj) Shahrulnezam Mohd Daud said pilgrims should deal directly with licensed tour companies issued with the LKU.
He said there are more than 200 tour companies and MATTA members with LKU and pilgrims should be suspicious of ridiculously cheap packages.
MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said pilgrims who expect a portion of their tour package to be topped up by “donations” will be in trouble when no such amount is forthcoming.
Umrah and Haj Travel Agents Association president Datuk Seri Razali Mohd Sham said the affected 453 pilgrims could have flown out yesterday morning.
He said AirAsia confirmed the flight bookings, but the plan did not come through because the flight payments were not made.
It could be due to tight cash flow on the part of the travel agency, he added.
“Paying RM3,800 does not even cover the cost of the umrah package. Customers need to be wise about the umrah packages they take. It may not be genuine if it is too cheap,” he said. – The Star Online