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Airlines across the globe are avoiding Afghanistan airspace

written by Isabella Richards | August 17, 2021
A file image of a United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9. (Wikimedia Commons/Konstantin von Wedelstaedt).

As chaos erupted in Afghanistan over the weekend, airlines around the world are avoiding its airspace to ensure the safety of its passengers.

President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan on Sunday after negotiations for a transition of power from the Taliban as the US announced it withdrew its military from the nation.

Since then, Western and foreign citizens have been evacuating from the country.

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FlightRadar24 showed a decrease in commercial flights over the nation as many airlines have begun rerouting scheduled flights to neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority said on Monday that Kabul airspace was now dominated by the military and advised any aircraft to reroute.

United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have all said they would not be flying over Afghanistan’s airspace.

This would affect many of United’s flights from the US to India, which serves the largest non-stop flight to the nation.

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“Due to the dynamic nature of the situation, we have begun routing affected flights around Afghanistan airspace,” the airline said in a statement

United flies passengers to Delhi from Newark Liberty International Airport daily, and numerous times a week from Chicago O’Hare International airport.

The carrier said it would “continue to work closely” with the US regulator the Federal Aviation Administrator and the International Air Transport Association.

It added the airline would continue to determine how it will serve its passengers who fly that route.

The FAA said in July US carriers were prohibited to fly below 26,000 feet in the Kabul Flight Information Region – which covers Afghanistan – due to “extremist/militant activity.”

Dubai’s state-owned carrier, flydubai and low-cost Air Arabia have suspended services to Kabul until further notice.

Emirates said a flight to Kabul on Sunday was diverted due to the temporary closure of its runway at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“Due to the sudden closure of the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Emirates flight EK 640 was forced to turn back to Dubai just as it was about to arrive in Kabul, on Sunday, August 15,” a company spokesman said.

“We are monitoring developments around the situation in Afghanistan and are working closely with all the relevant authorities to ensure the safe operation of our services.”

Emirates said any customer with tickets to Kabul would not be accepted anymore.

According to the Safe Airspace website, other nations in Canada, Britain, Germany and France have also been advised to fly higher than 25,000 feet over the war-torn nation.

The website said, “The primary risk is from indirect fire targeting airports and from surface-to-air fire targeting aircraft operating at low altitudes.”

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