Council warns over Hajj pilgrimage package

By on 01/08/2013 in News

Muslim residents are being urged by Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council to book their Hajj pilgrimages with a reputable travel agent.

Following a number of complaints from people who have previously booked Hajj packages with unscrupulous agents, and several high profile court cases, Trading Standards has compiled a check list for those planning to make the trip to Saudi Arabia.

Reputable tour operators should provide:

•             Itineraries (the schedule of events)

•             Accommodation details

•             Flight details

•             Transport details

•             An Air Travel Operators License (ATOL) receipt to the consumer on payment of the booking. This protects the customer's money if the business ceases trading and also ensures that customers are transported back to the UK at no extra cost

•             Information to consumers about the need to take out travel insurance if it is not included within the package they have bought.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “There are unscrupulous tour operators that deliberately target the Muslim community claiming to specialise in organising Hajj packages.

“These air tour operators do not have a licence and are breaking the law and not providing legal protection for travellers. Consumers need to be aware, and make sure they ask for the ATOL number when making enquiries about a Hajj pilgrimage trip.

“Thankfully, a number of traders have been prosecuted in recent years for falsely claiming to have an ATOL, but people still need to be savvy and careful about the choice of tour operator they choose.”

Trading Standards recommends that pilgrims take out travel insurance to protect themselves and their families from paying any additional costs in the event of a crisis.

Saudi government regulations stipulate that British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj can only travel with UK travel agencies accredited with the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.  Members of the public can check with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj – www.hajinformation.com – where travel agents are authorised to for Hajj

Further useful information for consumers are:

Trading Standards via Citizens Advice National Helpline on 08454 04 05 06

Foreign and Commonwealth Office – https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

The Civil Aviation Authority, where the ATOL number can be verified – www.atol.org.uk.

Ends

For more media information please contact Karen Blanchette on 0121 303 6969.

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