Pilgrims Urge Airlines, NCPC to Raise the Bar on Services

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By Justina Okpanku

When the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) gave  approval to two airlines, Atlasjet Nigeria and Airfirst Nigeria, to lift Nigerian pilgrims to the Holy Land  in 2015,  Chairman of the NCPC, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh tasked the airlines, Atlasjet, Turkey regional carrier and Airfirst Nigeria, to ensure that they provide  air worthy aircrafts for the operations.  The air charter agreement with the airlines would fly the pilgrims to the State of Israel, Rome and Greece.

Okoh also urged the carriers to maintain high standards in other areas, including  offering maximum comfort and  in-flight entertainment as well as  showing respect to Nigerians so they would come back to talk good about their experience.

However, some pilgrims have frowned on alleged “poor standards and best practices,” calling on the airlines to actually raise the bar to ensure that they enjoy the airlines’ services.

A business woman, Mrs. Frances Okebuka advised the NCPC to call on the airline that airlifts Nigerian pilgrims on Lagos-Turkey-Tel Aviv route to provide in-flight entertainment, pointing out that “some of the little little things like films and newspapers make sense to the traveller.

Okebuka said   “I was bored on the Atlas Jet flight from Lagos to Turkey. The seven-hour flight in the Business Class was like a whole day to me. The NCPC should ask the airline to do the right thing and provide in-flight entertainment and newspapers written in English Language.” 

Mr. Solo Olaolu of Olaolu Associates, also a pilgrim from Lagos, said he managed to find solace in sleep during the flight.  But on arrival to the Holy Land, he could not reclaim his baggage.  Travellers are easily overwhelmed when they lose their luggage on transit.

 “I was seeking exceptional religious experiences. On arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv that fateful day in December 2014, my baggage did not come. That could dampen ones spirit. The travel originated form Lagos en route Turkey,” he said. Adding: “With so much promises from the NCPC and Atlas Jet, still I did not get my bag with personal effects worth several thousands of naira.” 

The architect regretted that the unnecessary sufferings would have been avoided , if there is a direct to Israel from Nigeria.

Executive Secretary of the NCPC, Mr. John Kennedy Opara, had expressed optimism that the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) signed with the State of Israel in 2013 would be activated before the commencement of 2015 pilgrimage operation. “This year (2015) we are trusting God that before the commencement of this year’s operation, the activation of BASA would be achieved,” he said.

Despite inability to get a direct flight to the Holy Land, Christian pilgrims to the State of Israel from Nigeria can get some great benefits among other things,moral transformation and spiritual rebirth, according to Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), Mr. John Kennedy Opara. He said the Commission is currently partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture, Israel to train Nigerian pilgrims in agriculture, latest trends and innovations in the agriculture technology.

Opara informed Chairman, House Committee on Governmental Affairs, Hon. Suleiman Kangiwa, during their oversight function to the NCPC Corporate Headquarters, Abuja, on the track records of the Commission since its inception, their 8th year in this operation, For example, over 30,000 Nigerians were said to have went on pilgrimage in 2015.

The NCPC runs four pilgrimage programmes in a calendar year, including the Easter pilgrimage in March, Youth pilgrimage in July, Family pilgrimage in August and the main pilgrimage usually held between October/December every year.

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