Travellers who were hoping to go on a once in a lifetime trip to the Hajj have spoken of their growing frustrations at a new Saudi backed portal.

People were due to head out over the weekend were still in the UK with no answers as whether they are travelling or not. Others have told of waiting for hours on end to speak to someone from the company and described the whole situation as ‘disheartening, stressful and emotionally draining’.

Elsewhere, travellers who had paid were then being told their booking had ‘failed’ and they must wait for a refund days before they were due to travel.

There was hope for some travellers who were told they may board a flight on Tuesday from Heathrow – others were not holding out hope and described the situation as ‘truly saddening’.

People from across the UK, from London to the North of England have been affected by the delays with many simply wanting answers to their questions.

Pilgrims had booked their flights with some paying upwards of £9,000 per person to go on the Hajj via the new Motawif website, which had replaced the system of using tour operators which was launched earlier this month. Last weekend, potential applicants waited for a decision of what has been coined a ‘Hajj lottery’.

Successful travellers were meant to ‘drop everything’ and head out with the Hajj taking place in early July.

This weekend there has been growing discontent at ‘poor customer service’, booking failures and a ‘lack of accountability’. There were also concerns at how the system, launched to make prices more competitive and make the Hajj ‘stress free’ was doing the exact opposite.

The Saudi Embassy in the UK and Motawif have been approached for comment.

Eram said she had paid £17,000 on Sunday (June 19) for herself and her son. They were due to travel on Saturday June 25 from Manchester Airport.

She said: “We paid and booked and were given an itinerary with all the flight times and where we would be staying.

“Then we heard nothing. We tried many times to get in touch and

“Getting through to someone is proving to be real issue. I called 200 times once in a day and then once through you are left on hold.

“I have booked time off work and have yet to receive any confirmation as to when I will be travelling, if at all.”

Eram said this was a ‘growing problem’ and she knew of over 200 other people who may be in the same situation as her.

“I know of a lot of people who are going through the same ordeal.

“We have booked and paid and nobody is getting back to us? We get no definite answer.

“One day I started and echat at 11am and waited until 5pm for answer!”

A couple from Leicester more than £21,000 for a platinum package and were due to fly out Sunday 26 June from Manchester

They said: “The customer service just keep saying we have a technical issue and trying to do all we can to secure your package.

“Why did they take money if package was unavailable? Motawif have strung us along and have not shown no empathy nor even offered alternatives. My wife is a teacher and getting time off for a teacher during term time is a bonus and now it’s scuppered all the plans.”

A Nelson couple said they paid £13,700 and were due to fly out on Sunday (26 June).

“We tried contacting them all week leading up to departure date and could not get hold of them at all

“We managed to get hold of someone on live chat the day before departure and were then told ‘sorry you wouldn’t be travelling as you didn’t book a package with flights.”

There were particular concerns for families trying to book the Hajj for their parents and family members who were left in ‘limbo’.

One woman from Rochdale has been dealing with her parent’s application.

She said: “After the application was approved on 18 June, I was told to select a package and make payment.”

She attempted to log in to the portal and kept receiving an error message and after ‘100 attempts’ managed to get through to customer services.

“The following morning, I tried logging in and was successful, however only one package was available, which was a Gold package. I had no option to select it and I was told to make payment.

She said she spent the next 11 hours trying to continuously make payment through different cards with the bank stating the error was on the recipients side. After the payment was successful she was told the booking had ‘failed’.

“I then received an email on 20 June, stating that we will hear from them in 72 hours with an update and again another email on 24 June advising that they cannot confirm our booking due to high demand in flights and they will provide us with an alternative or the same flights and to not go to the airport.

“My family were due fly out on Sunday 26 June and still haven’t heard anything.

“My parents have paid to have their meningitis inject and PCR test. The PCR results won’t be valid in the event they do get to fly out now.

“This whole experience has been very stressful, mentally and emotionally draining. Motawif have been shocking, the customer service is non-existent and has left a lot of us disheartened.”

ALSO SEE: Hajj pilgrims who paid £65,000 ‘abandoned’ at Manchester Airport as flight takes off

Another customer said: “I have booked tickets for my five kids on 4 July to Pakistan we were meant to go to Hajj 28 June now we have to pay double to get to Pakistan.

“My son is blind has very little vision and he is autistic. My other son is autistic and my 8-year-old daughter has not been diagnosed but has all traits of autism they have been so disturbed not knowing if we are going or not and trying to prepare them to be without us.”

Another applicant told us: “I am handling the booking for my father-in-law. He had booked for 2019 like most people and it was cancelled due to Covid.

“This year he was informed by agent that prices will go up so he worked overtime at the NHS to find the difference as he didn’t want to miss out. I informed him in June that everything has changed and he needed to do all the stuff online and the agent is no longer allowed to offer Hajj. He struggled to get a full refund so started increasing his hours even more.”

 “I have been doing his application because he isn’t tech savvy. We applied and he got through and was approved. We looked at the prices and he said he’ll get the funds to make the purchase the next day.

“On the 18 we bought the Silver Package which said we would leave from Manchester on 26 June.

“The next few days were stressful for my father-in-law as now he is worried about what is happening. He had arranged a PCR test for Friday, prebooked and also arranged transportation to Manchester Airport.

“A few days go pass and there were no communications and no update.

“My father-in-law is distraught, he has changed his annual leave dates a few times and he was really looking forward to go Madinah to do Ziraya. He has given up hope but I still think he’ll get to go. It is sad because on the phone, when I visit him, he is just silent.”

A passenger was saddened the name ‘Motawif’ had been used, “Motawifs have existed from my knowledge even before the declaration of Islam when people use to go to Makkah for pilgrimage.

“Local families would take people in and serve them. From what I know even until today generations on, families in Makkah are the Motawifs working alongside the government to serve the Hajjaj.

“Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks has given a total different meaning to the name.”

This weekend a group of seven passengers from Yorkshire paid a total of £66,500 for the journey and returned home from Manchester Airport TWICE.

A passenger said: “We spent around 5 hours at the airport as we arrived early and it took us between 60-90 mins to travel there and back.”

Even those who arrived in Saudi Arabia have spoken of being placed in rooms with 'random strangers' and called the situation 'awful'.

One woman posted: “I am down as a Mister and sharing a room with a Miss Mohammed someone. Not the bloke I married! After more than 24 hours travel, no breakfast. This is awful.”