Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Ras Al Khaimah: Airports in the UAE are set to welcome more than 90,000 pilgrims returning from performing Haj in Saudi Arabia with special celebrations and arrangements to accommodate their needs.
This coupled with the rush of expatriates leaving for their home countries to celebrate the festive season with families has kept the the authorities busy.
Dubai International Airport is expecting up to 35,000 Haj pilgrims travelling through the airport to their final destination, while Abu Dhabi International Airport expects more than 5,700 pilgrims from the UAE, officials told Gulf News.
In Ras Al Khaimah, more than 50,000 are expected to go through the airport, including transit passengers. About 25,000 UAE residents went for Haj this year.
Abdullah Ali of the Haj committee with Dubai Civil Aviation (DCA) said the flights carrying Haj pilgrims from Saudi Arabia would start arriving in Dubai early on Saturday morning.
"Flights will be arriving throughout the day - there will be one flight every hour," he told Gulf News over the telephone from Makkah.
At least eight flights are expected to arrive daily from Saudi Arabia to Dubai, including jumbo airliners that able to accommodate more than 400 passengers.
Forty-four flights are operational between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia during Eid.
Pilgrims will receive a warm welcome upon arrival in the UAE. Each airport has made special arrangements in anticipation of the huge number of arrivals.
"We have made special arrangements for the pilgrims, such as preparing a special luggage area for them. We have a dedicated car park for families coming to greet them, free of charge. We also have gifts when they arrive, maybe sweets and Zamzam water," he said.
"It's part of the tradition at Dubai International Airport to do this because we are happy that the pilgrims are back," he added.
An Emirates Airlines spokesperson told Gulf News the airline had made special preparations to facilitate a smooth journey for Haj travellers.
"Emirates will deploy dedicated teams at the airport to handle our returning Haj flights, and assign extra staff to assist returning pilgrims and guide those in transit to connect to their onward flights. There will also be a dedicated luggage carousel for Haj flights and a special collection point for those who have brought back holy water," she said.
In Abu Dhabi, returning pilgrims will get exclusive use of Terminal I along with other special allowances, said Mohammad Al Katheeri, deputy chief operating officer with Abu Dhabi Airports Company.
"Terminal 1A has been dedicated for the exclusive service of pilgrims, and a full-fledged plan involving all agencies operating at the airport has been put to action to ensure a seamless flow of pilgrims," he said.
He added the airport has also allocated a special area for pilgrims to pick up their Zamzam water.
As for Ras Al Khaimah, officials are expecting more than 50,000 pilgrims to come through the emirate's International Airport due to its rising popularity with Haj pilgrims.
Captain Khalid Al Meer, Director-General of RAK International Airport, told Gulf News has finished all the necessary procedures to prepare for a 50 per cent increase of travellers.
Healthcare: Ready for emergencies
The Dubai International airport has prepared for any incoming medical emergencies among Haj pilgrims, many of whom are elderly.
Dr Ibtesam Bastaki, director of the Dubai International Airport Medical Centre, told Gulf News airport medical staff were not expecting serious cases arising from infectious diseases as pilgrims have been vaccinated.
"Mostly, we are expecting gastroenteritis cases, such as vomiting and diarrhoea. There have been some complicated cases in the past, mostly diabetics who forgot to take their insulin or epileptics who forgot to take their medication," she said.
In case of serious emergencies, she said the clinic has a physician and five nurses on duty to stabilise patients, while two ambulances are on standby to transport the cases to the hospital. Paramedics are also on duty at five medical stations throughout the airport.
Dr Ibtesam said the centre had seen a few serious emergencies among Haj pilgrims in the past.
"Last year, we had one or two cardiac arrest cases, but this is unusual," she said.
- Staff Report