Airlines told to avoid Afghanistan airspace

Aleksandra Tokarz/

Airlines have been warned to avoid Kabul airspace whose flight information region covers the whole of Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital. 

The Afghanistan civil aviation authority issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM), advising that Kabul airspace had been released to the military.

“Advise transit aircraft to reroute. Any transit through Kabul airspace will be uncontrolled,” the NOTAM said, meaning that planes in the area will not be under air traffic control.  

Another NOTAM advised that the civilian part of Hamid Karzai International Airport was closed until further notice. 

Both of the warnings are valid until August 18, though this is an estimated date. 

One of the last scheduled passenger flights, Turkish Airlines flight TK707, a Boeing 777-300 finally took off from Kabul at 13:14 local time, over five hours after its scheduled departure time.

Other flights, including Emirates EK640, decided to return to Dubai rather than land at Kabul on August 15, 2021. 

The warning to avoid Kabul airspace means airlines will have to fly longer routes to get to certain destinations, costing them more in time and fuel.

Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said all its group airlines – including the Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), Austrian, Brussels, Swiss and Eurowings brands, would avoid overflying Afghanistan until further notice. The diversion adds an extra hour onto journey times for flights to destinations in India, for example, the group said in a statement. 

Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) added it was working with the German government to see how it could help with repatriating German citizens. 

France is also evacuating the remainders of its diplomatic personnel from the country, as well as “Afghans who have helped” its military, explained the French Ministry of Armed Forces.

A C-130 and an A400M were initially sent to Al Dhafra Air Base, in the United Arab Emirates, from which France operates in the region. Rotation flights between Kabul and Al Dhafra are planned to take place on August 16, 2021. Once processed in the UAE, French nationals should then be repatriated.

Chaos at the airport

Now that the Taliban have seized the city and established their power over the country, thousands of people want to flee, fearing reprisals. 

Until now, the remaining US forces kept Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL) secured while foreign nationals evacuated. But locals now submerged the runway, forcing soldiers to fire warning shots into the air. Five people reportedly died in the stampede.

Haunting image

“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy,” US president Joe Biden promised on July 8, 2021, as people compared the situation in Kabul to the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam, in April 1975. 

Yet the situation degraded faster than expected, forcing the United States to deploy 2,000 soldiers to assist the 3,000 already tasked with overseeing the evacuation of the city. And on August 15, 2021, history repeated itself as a Chinook transport helicopter landed on the roof of the US Embassy to transport the remaining personnel to the airport.

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