• 4 July 2023
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India’s First All-Woman Hajj Flight: A Historic Journey

India’s First All-Woman Hajj Flight: A Historic Journey

On June 8, 2023, a historic flight took off from Calicut International Airport in Kerala, carrying 145 women pilgrims to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. What made this flight special was that it was India’s first all-women Hajj flight, operated by Air India Express, the international budget arm of Tata Group. Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs John Barla launched the flight, hailing it as a historic step forward for women’s empowerment in the country.

An All-Women Affair

An all-female crew in critical flight operations roles managed the entire IX 3025 flight. Kanika Mehra of Punjab piloted the plane with the help of co-pilot Garima Passi. The cabin crew members included MB Bijita, Darpana Rana, Sushama Sharma, and Subhangi Biswas. Furthermore, the ground crew and those who greeted the pilgrims were all female.

The flight also marked the first time that women pilgrims from Kerala traveled for Hajj without a mehram or a male companion. According to Islamic law, women under 45 years of age need a mehram to accompany them for Hajj. However, in 2018, the Indian government allowed women above 45 years of age to go for Hajj in groups of four or more without a mehram. This year, as many as 2,733 women from Kerala availed themselves of this opportunity.

The eldest pilgrim of the group was 76-year-old Sulaikha Karthikappalli from Kozhikode, who received the boarding pass from Barla. She expressed her happiness and gratitude for being able to fulfill her lifelong dream of performing Hajj.

A Milestone for Air India Express

Air India Express, which is India’s low-cost international airline, has been operating Hajj flights since 2009. This year, the airline will fly around 19,000 Hajj pilgrims to Jeddah and Medina from various stations in India. The airline has chosen Kozhikode and Kannur as its Hajj centers this year and will operate 44 flights from Kozhikode and 13 flights from Kannur during the first phase.

The airline’s CEO, K. Shyam Sundar, said that the all-women Hajj flight was a proud moment for Air India Express and a tribute to the airline’s female employees, who have been playing a vital role in its operations. He also said that the airline is committed to providing safe and comfortable travel to the Hajj pilgrims.

A Celebration of Women’s Contribution to Aviation

The all-women Hajj flight also celebrated the contribution of women to the aviation sector in India and beyond. India has one of the highest percentages of female pilots in the world, with around 15% of its pilots being women. This is much higher than the global average of around 5%. Many Indian airlines have been organizing flights operated by an all-female crew on occasions such as Women’s Day and International Civil Aviation Day to showcase their support for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

However, Air India Express went above and beyond by ensuring that women employees handled not only the cockpit and cabin crew but also other critical roles such as flight dispatch, operation control, service engineering, and load management. Moreover, the fact that all the passengers on board were also women made this flight truly unique and memorable.

The all-women Hajj flight was not only a historic journey for the pilgrims but also a milestone for Air India Express and a celebration of women’s contribution to aviation. It was a testament to the spirit and strength of Indian women, who have been breaking barriers and achieving their dreams in various fields.


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