British Airways has ordered its pilots to avoid Afghan airspace after the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Sunday and Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government fled the country. Other airlines are likely to follow suit in the coming hours but the likes of Air France, Singapore Airlines and Eva Air continued to utilise Afghanistan’s airspace hours after the directive from British Airways.
In an emergency security briefing sent to pilots, British Airways said its flights would be rerouted around Afghanistan “due to concerns over the continuity of ATC (Air Traffic Control) provision”.
British Airways normally flies through Afghan airspace to get to India and destinations throughout the Far East. On Sunday, British Airways flight BA139 to Mumbai had diverted further south via Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in order to avoid Afghan airspace.
British Airways pilots already avoid Iran and Iraq due to security concerns and there is the potential for serious disruption on some routes and flights times may be extended.
Earlier on Sunday, both Emirates and flydubai suspended services between Dubai and Kabul as the security situation in the city rapidly deteriorated. An Emirates operated Boeing 777-300 flew all the way to Kabul on Sunday but entered a high-altitude holding pattern for around 30 minutes before flying back to Dubai without landing.
One of flydubai’s two daily Kabul-bound flights made it to the Afghan capital on Sunday but the second flight returned to Dubai just before it entered Afghan airspace.
Hundreds of people were anxiously waiting to evacuate Kabul on these commercial services before they were cancelled. Later on Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued an alert telling American citizens to shelter in place, saying there had been reports of the airport taking fire.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.