Pakistan International Airlines has temporarily suspended its flights to Kabul, citing an uncertain security situation and dangerous landing conditions as reasons to stop flying. Sources close to the airline said there are piles of garbage on the runway and no security checks or immigration processes in place at the airport. PIA was the only commercial airline still flying into Kabul to evacuate stranded people.
Pakistan International Airlines has suspended its flights into the Afghan capital of Kabul, citing a lack of organization and dangerous conditions as the reason behind the temporary stop. According to reporting in Geo News, sources close to the airline have identified several areas of concern that led to the decision to suspend flights.
Among the complaints recorded are ‘piles of garbage’ on the runway, which the sources said could cause a tragic accident. They also said that sanitation workers are no longer doing their jobs since the Taliban took control of the city. They further say there are no immigration officials present or security checks being carried out. The airport is under the control of the US military, which the sources say are only interested in military flights.
The airline had planned to operate three flights to Kabul today for evacuation purposes. The airline had said yesterday that it would fly in an A320 and two Boeing 777s today to evacuate stranded nationals and foreigners. The airline had estimated that around 600 passengers would be brought to Islamabad from Kabul. However, all three flights were canceled at the last minute.
The only commercial airline
Pakistan International was the only commercial airline still flying into Kabul since the city fell to the Taliban last week. It had been operating flights to evacuate foreign nationals and diplomats, and had reportedly airlifted some 1,000 people out of the city in the past four days.
The European Union and Asian Development Bank had both sought help from PIA to evacuate their employees from Afghanistan. This morning’s flights should have seen some 251 EU delegates and their dependents airlifted from Kabul. Altogether, 420 people were noted to be on the EU’s evacuation list.
For the Asian Development Bank, 290 people required help from PIA. 162 of these would be ADB staff and families, while the rest were Filipino nationals stranded in the country. Both companies had requested charter flights from the airline to get their people out. However, until the situation with the facilities at the airport is resolved, these people will remain stranded.
With the situation in Kabul still desperate, PIA wants to return to its evacuation efforts as soon as possible. However, until the facilities at the airport are improved, the decision to suspend flights is a wise choice.
A spokesperson for the airline, Abdullah Hafeez, told Radio Pakistan that the suspension is envisaged to last for a couple of days, and that the airline is working with the authorities to be able to restart its flights. He said,
“We have talked to Afghan Civil Aviation Authority for restoration of all required facilities at Kabul airport as soon as possible so that PIA could resume its flight operation.”
At present, no commercial airlines are overflying Afghanistan, let alone landing at the airport. Military flights are airlifting hundreds of people a day out of the country, but there are still thousands awaiting repatriation or asylum.