Philadelphia Opens Up For Afghanistan Evacuation Flights

Philadelphia International Aiport (PHL) has joined Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD) in accepting flights supporting the evacuation from Afghanistan. The American Airlines hub has readied its facilities to handle the influx of humanitarian flights and relieve some pressure off of Dulles to handle all international arrivals under the US evacuation from Afghanistan. American Airlines has also assisted in getting the airport ready to support this mission.

AA CRAF PHL
Philadelphia has started receiving its first CRAF flights, including from American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Philadelphia starts accepting Afghanistan evacuation flights

Over the last couple of days, Philadelphia began accepting its first evacuees arriving on Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) flights. The largest airport in Pennsylvania quickly mobilized to get its facilities ready to handle the large influx of passengers.

Key to this process was American Airlines, which operates a hub in Philadelphia. The airline worked with airport authorities and federal agencies involved in the evacuation to create a plan to handle the passengers and crew arriving on the CRAF flights.

CRAF
Handling CRAF arrivals is very different from handling traditional international arrivals. Photo: American Airlines

The first flight arrives on Saturday, August 28th. Shortly after 04:00 local time, an American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER activated under the CRAF program arrived in Philadelphia after a flight from Europe.

Within 40 minutes of arrival, all passengers and crew were able to deplane. After learning from this flight, the second flight PHL handled on Saturday took less than 20 minutes to offload passengers and bags.

DOD Aircraft
It is not just CRAF aircraft, but also some military planes that are arriving with evacuees. Photo: American Airlines

Anthony Stanley, PHL Director of Administration and Planning for American Airlines, stated the following:

“We’ve been able to develop and refine a seamless 24/7 operation led by the airport, city agencies, the military and our federal partners. In the past three days, more than 1,600 evacuees have arrived at PHL on CRAF flights — and we’re prepared to welcome even more in the coming days.”

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Handling the arrival of evacuation flights

American volunteered portions of Terminal A–West and Terminal A-East baggage claims for these missions. With the help of airport and federal officials, these locations were secured and repurposed to serve as relief areas for evacuees awaiting final vetting and screening for entry into the United States.

PHL Arrivals
The indoor setup helps avoid backups where passengers may be stuck on aircraft for hours. Photo: American Airlines

Between Philadelphia city officials, Pennsylvania state officials, federal agencies, local hospitals, and nonprofit organizations, plenty of hands were on deck to help provide care and assistance to evacuees after arrival.

This includes an initial health screening. Evacuees arriving in Philadelphia are tested for the coronavirus. To support them at the airport, translation services are available for Dari, Pashto, Farsi, and Urdu speakers.

Translation
Translation services are key as evacuees arriving in the US come from a variety of different language backgrounds. Photo: American Airlines

Also set up across the space are religious areas for prayers. Other non-coronavirus general medical care and aid stations are also available. Evacuees have access to food, water, medicine, personal care items, and children’s toys as they await screening for entry into the United States.

Religious
The areas in the terminal also include a place where arrivals can pray. Photo: American Airlines

Taking some pressure off of IAD

The main gateway for evacuation flights in the United States has been Dulles. IAD has served CRAF flights from the major carriers operating under the US government’s evacuation program. However, this has not necessarily been without its shortcomings.

Red CRoss
Partners like the Red Cross have been key in helping set up humanitarian facilities at PHL. Photo: American Airlines

With a significant number of passengers arriving per day under these evacuation flights, delays have piled up at Dulles. The airport’s international arrivals processing facility has seen wait times stretching into several hours as both relief flights and regularly scheduled commercial aircraft arrived. Adding Philadelphia as a second gateway into the US will certainly alleviate some of that strain.

What do you make of Philadelphia’s efforts to serve the relief flights? Let us know in the comments!

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