Sudden closure of Kabul airport throws schedules of remaining flights into disarray
The sudden closure of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday threw schedules for the few remaining airlines operating flights to Afghanistan into disarray, including Air India which had a flight scheduled for 12.30pm.
Two NOTAMs or notices to airmen – official notices containing essential information on flight operations – issued on Monday morning by the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority said the civilian side of Hamid Karzai International Airport or Kabul airport was “closed until further notice” and that Kabul’s airspace “has been released to the military”.
The second NOTAM advised all “transit aircraft to reroute” and cautioned that “any transit through Kabul airspace will be uncontrolled”.
An Air India spokesperson said the airspace over Afghanistan had been declared closed and no commercial aircraft could operate there. “Our scheduled flight to Kabul also cannot go,” the spokesperson added.
The development came after thousands of US troops took over Kabul airport to ensure the evacuation of American diplomats, officials and citizens. There were reports of US troops firing in the air at the airport after thousands of Afghans seeking to flee the country walked on to the tarmac and began gathering in large numbers.
There were reports of three people being killed by gunfire at the passenger terminal of Kabul airport, raising questions about the security of the facility despite the presence of US troops
Kabul airport is currently the only way to leave the country as the Taliban have taken over all the important land border crossings with neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Air India, Emirates, FlyDubai, Pakistan International Airlines and Turkish Airlines are among the few airlines currently operating flights to Kabul.
On Sunday, the scheduled Air India flight from New Delhi to Kabul had to hover over the Afghan capital for almost an hour as the sudden advance of the Taliban to the city created chaos for flight operations and there was no clearance from air traffic control for the aircraft to land. The flight returned late in the evening with 129 passengers, including officials and security personnel from the Indian embassy and Afghans fleeing their country.
Indian officials had said the Air India flights will continue to operate, though there was no clarity when the restrictions on Kabul airport would be lifted.
The Indian side has already put military and civilian aircraft on standby for special flights to evacuate all Indian nationals from Afghanistan.