Travel agents hit back at ‘unjust’ SAHUC pressure to refund Hujjaj

By Al Qalam Reporter

The South African Muslim Travel operators Association (SAMTOA) has come to the defence of some of its members who have come under immense pressure to pay back monies owed to hujjaj saying its members are not in a position to meet the February 20 deadline because the accredited Hajj operators simply do not have “any of the hujjaj funds in their bank accounts.”

In a statement released to Al Qalam, SAMTOA, said they will defend their members to the hilt should the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) decide to pursue this matter against its members in court.

It seems inevitable, as per the SAHUC press release that they are going to engage in legal action. SAMTOA will defend the integrity and good name of their members in any court of law.

We remain committed to the rights of our Hujjaj.
We make Dua that Allah SWT assist us in this unjust action and crisis created by SAHUC,” the statement said.

SAMTOA and their members re-iterate that most suppliers and hoteliers in KSA have not yet refunded Hujjaj funds and that none of the accredited Hajj Operators have any of the Hujjaj funds in their bank accounts.

We inform Hujaaj that our members will not be able to meet the 20 February 2021 deadline, and that SAHUC are well aware that their demand is unreasonable.

SAMTOA has consulted its legal team and they had advised the following:

1. Hujjaj will be fully responsible for any airline cancellation fee for air-tickets issued according to airline policies and regulations.

2. Hujjaj are fully responsible for any cash deposit fees incurred. (Cash fees paid to your operators).

3. All refunds due to Hujjaj will be paid according to the Saudi Principles and Partners terms and conditions once these are made known.

Refunds can only be processed upon receipt of these refunds back into operator’s accounts.

4. Cancellation fee will only be applicable if Hujjaj opts to cancel before any announcements from the Ministry of Hajj & Umrah or the South African government that Hajj is disallowed. This is in accordance to the contract entered into between the operator and the accredited Hujjaj.

Meanwhile, one of the travel operators, named by SAHUC as a defaulter, says its good name has been tarnished by SAHUC.

Irshad Malek, a director of World of Travel said it’s “prestige and a good public reputation” has been dented when Sahuc named it as one of the defaulting operators “especially when survival is most important in these unprecedented times of our lives.”

“We had endured extreme challenges in refunding the Hujjaj their land arrangements 100% bearing in mind we still have not received all our refunds from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As for the airlines, the pressure was no less however with this particular airline namely Ethiopian Airline the communication has been as open as true and our emails are proof of this.

“Sahuc’s previous public releases which were dated the 07 May 2020 and 11 June 2020 respectively clearly stipulate that Hujjaj must bear in mind that airlines have their own refund policies and procedures in place and travel agents will refund airline tickets once the airlines have reimbursed the funds.

“Sahuc cannot now defame World of Travel due to any of the last 13 Hujjaj waiting for their Ethiopian Airline funds which still have not been refunded to us. Once again we reiterate that we have maintained transparency and truthfulness with the challenges of this airline and the 13 passengers affected.”
“We request that Sahuc now releases another press statement explaining all the above and remove us from the listing as it is in direct contradiction with the previous press releases by Sahuc regarding the airline policies and procedures. World of Travel does not agree with what looks like Sahuc’s impromptu style of delivering messages to the public thereby creating defamation and libel difference to World of Travel. We demand nothing less than a public apology and the removal of World of Travel with immediate effect from this latest press release otherwise we will have no option but to consult with our attorneys in this regard.”

Talking to Al Qalam, Shaheen Essop, President of SAHUC indicated that there is no intent to discredit operators, and no antagonism or intent of defamation. Essop said that World of Travel claims they have informed SAHUC about an airline still owing monies; but SAHUC maintains that responsibility lies with the operator to ensure that the repatriation of funds is fulfilled
           

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