Afghanistan Evacuation Flights Cause Backups At Dulles International Airport

The global impact of the tense situation in Afghanistan continues to heat up. Washington Dulles has been witnessing a traffic bottleneck this week amid the ramp-up in commercial airlines flying in due to evacuations efforts.

United 777
Following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul this month, airlines and the military have been racing to evacuate many individuals from Afghanistan. Photo: United Airlines

Uniting together

Last weekend, the United States Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) was activated to help out with the Afghanistan evacuations. The likes of American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, United Airlines, and Hawaiian airlines began sending 18 units of their aircraft together in the first instance.

Since then, additional aircraft from other US airlines have been deployed. For example, Southwest Airlines began conducting a series of flights chartered by the pentagon. Moreover, Alaska Airlines shared yesterday that it is joining in on the efforts.

Notably, it’s not only commercial carriers based in the United States that have been helping out. For instance, Germany’s Lufthansa flew over 1,500 individuals in one week.

Delta Getty
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet aircraft have been transporting passengers from Middle East and European bases to the US. Photo: Getty Images

Challenges on the ground

When it comes to US operations, The Wall Street Journal reports that the ramp-up in activity is causing a backlog at Dulles International. On the morning of Thursday, seven planes were waiting on the tarmac as authorities took up to 10 hours to process arrivals. More aircraft were also flying in. 

A Department of Homeland Security official shared that the delays were due to the long process of vetting the Afghans that just landed. 

The government official shared the following, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

“Over the last several days, we have worked with urgency and with care to enhances screening and vetting operations such that we make these operations more efficient without compromising national security.”

Carriers have been asking authorities for alternative space at Dulles where passengers can wait to gain clearance. They are also seeking alternative airports to land at, with the likes of Philadephia International identified. 

Kabul Airport, Civil Aviation Reopen
There are many worried individuals in Afghanistan amid the political tensions. Photo: Getty Images

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The operation continues

Even before commercial carriers joined the fold to help with evacuation missions, there were desperate scenes in Kabul. Hundreds of people at the capital of Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International were cramming into military planes. Some at the site were also jumping on aircraft engines in a bid to leave.

Around 20,000 evacuations are being conducted by US forces a day. As of the middle of the week, 250,000 Afghans eligible for expedited US visas were still in Afghanistan. Altogether, it may be a challenge to conduct these operations smoothly ahead of the Biden administration’s evacuation deadline of August 31st.

What are your thoughts about these evacuation flights arriving at Washington Dulles? What do you make of the efforts of the operators across the globe in recent weeks? Let us know what you think of the overall situation and how it will play out in the comment section.