Hajj booking system fails British Muslims for second successive year

Hajj pilgrims. Editorial credit: TEA OOR / Shutterstock.com

Saudi Arabia’s online hajj booking system is leaving British Muslims frustrated and emotionally distressed for a second successive year.

Scores of Muslims have been leaving negative comments on the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s Nusuk Twitter handle, and others have directly contacted 5Pillars to complain about software glitches when using Nusuk and poor customer service.

Issues pilgrims are facing include:

  • Not being able to log into the Nusuk system and receiving error messages with no response.
  • Paying in full (with packages ranging from £6,500 to £14,000 per person) and then having those same bookings cancelled with no communication from Nusuk.
  • No details about refunds if the booking has been cancelled.
  • Packages being available, people selecting them, yet when they do so being informed that there is no availability.
  • Not being able to make a debit card payment and having to make an international bank transfer.
  • When people contact Nusuk to complain about the issues they are facing, a ticket is generated but they also send a further email without responding to the questions people have raised.

Last year the Kingdom announced that Hajj packages could only be booked through a government-run online platform – the Motawif system.

The last minute implementation saw many issues in the booking and payment system, people struggling to be verified on the system, and poor communication throughout the process of trying to book for hajj.

In many cases people who had already paid for their pilgrimage earlier in the year had their dreams dashed, including 5Pillars deputy editor Dilly Hussain.

He wrote at the time: “While I appreciate that a move towards an online booking system might work in the near future, and may save costs and time if streamlined and implemented properly, I am personally of the opinion that the Saudi authorities pulled this move purely for monetary reasons, with full confidence that Muslim pilgrims will jump through whatever hoop they put in place to fulfil their religious duty, and any meaningful protest (let alone a boycott) against one of Islam’s foundational pillars is simply unforeseeable.”

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This year the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched the nusak system for Hajj pilgrims in Europe with many of the same issues and concerns being raised again.

Shabana Qassim, from Bradford, had her package cancelled even though she had made a £24K payment, although the bank hadn’t sent it through. She is yet to receive any communication from nusuk.

She told 5Pillars: “I cannot comprehend how the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has not added in some measures to regulate the Nusuk platform for UK pilgrims. There is also no ATOL coverage that flaunts UK law regarding consumer protection.”

She added: “The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has taken on board some advice from last year by including some agents from UK Hajj travel agencies to help build the selection of packages. However, the roll-out of nusuk has not taken on board some of the inadequacies of the Motawif system last year.

“In previous years the quota from the UK of pilgrims to go to Hajj was almost 25,000 people. This year through the new Nusuk platform it is around 3,500 people. We in the UK are blessed to have more of a disposable income, therefore, the obligations to perform Hajj are more significant for us.”

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has been responding to complaints on Twitter saying that they are receiving a high volume of inquiries, packages may have sold out, and that they are working on responding to requests as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hajj and Umrah heard complaints from the public during a meeting on May 16, but have not reported their findings.

5Pillars requested to attend the meeting but was not admitted.

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