City baggage check-in ensures smooth flow of Haj flights
JEDDAH, Jan 04, 2013 (Arab News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
City check-in services provided by cargo firms during the last Haj season have been instrumental in enhancing comfort of pilgrims, reducing congestion at airports and ensuring smooth and on-time performance of Haj flights.
This has encouraged more airlines to extend such an innovative service to their pilgrims.
"We served 54,400 Indian Haj pilgrims carried by Air India in 2012. Our city check-in services helped our customer airlines operate their Haj flights smoothly," said K.P. Abdul Salam of Alpha Cargo.
He said Alpha Cargo, which is an IATA certified agent, intends to expand its Haj check-in and cargo handling facilities in the coming years as part of its contribution in support of the Saudi government's endeavors to improve services to the guests of God.
"Our aim is to become a dependable city check-in provider for Saudi aviation industry, especially during the Haj and Umrah pilgrim seasons. A number of reputed carriers have already shown interest in availing themselves of our services in the coming Haj season," Salam said.
Indian pilgrims were happy over Alpha Cargo's services during the last Haj season as the company picked up their bags from their hotels and apartments in Makkah and Madinah and submitted them at Air India's check-in counters in airports prior their departure.
"Our staff members pick up bags of pilgrims right from their rooms in Makkah and Madinah. We ensure security and insurance until the baggage is delivered to the airline," he said.
Salam claimed that his company was providing services to pilgrims in a professional way, meeting the expectations of passengers and airlines. "Our Haj service has contributed to reducing congestion at airports," he added.
The service greatly helps pilgrims, especially the elderly, as they need not bother about their baggage. Many carriers are now interested in providing similar city check-in services to their pilgrims to avoid delays.
Salam advised pilgrims to authorize his company to transport their excess baggage as cargo before their departure from the Kingdom. "If pilgrims want to buy things in excess of the approved baggage, they need not worry. We can help them ship those things to their destinations through our cargo service," he said.
Alpha extends air, sea freight, door to door, freight forwarding, transport, customs clearance, packing, insurance, city check-in, moving services and storage services through its offices in Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.
Last year, Alpha deployed close to 150 additional workers and a similar number of trucks to handle pilgrim bags. "We also provide baggage packing services to pilgrims on request," said Mohamed Hakeem, corporate manager.
The Indian Consulate General in Jeddah initiated the city check-in program to serve Indian pilgrims, Salam said, and thanked Consul General Faiz Ahmad Kidwai for his support. Alpha Cargo's service last year made a remarkable difference in Air India's Haj operation as the Indian media described it as the most successful.
"Air India has successfully completed the Haj 2012. In fact, this has been one of the most successful operations ever by Air India," the airline's management said. "The introduction of advance city check-in was a major factor that contributed to the smooth operation."
Asked about the company's future plans, Salam said Alpha would soon introduce system-generated services that would enable host airlines to monitor baggage movement. "We'll also establish an advanced X-ray system to check-in bags and cargos," he added.
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