United Airlines has begun flying refugees from Afghanistan onwards from Washington D.C. to other designated destinations in the US. Enlisted by the Department of Defense for international evacuation and domestic relocation missions, United has also established collaborations with NGOs and corporations to make sure evacuees are cared for onboard the flights and upon arrival.
Evacuations continue as threat rises
United Airlines announced Friday that it had commenced domestic operations to transport evacuees from Afghanistan via bases in other countries from Washington D.C. to designated destinations around the country. The flights are part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) mission directed by the Department of Defense (DOD).
United’s domestic relocation flights began on Thursday, August 26th, two days after its first international evacuation flight arrived in Washington. The airline did not share an exact number of planned flights but said it would continue to operate both international and domestic missions as assigned by the DOD.
Up until now, United has operated three international missions. A fourth flight is set to depart shortly as the US presses on with evacuations following Thursday’s deadly terrorist attack at the perimeter of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. The attack, reportedly perpetrated by IS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State group, has claimed over 90 lives, including 13 US service personnel.
United’s three flights thus far have carried nearly 1,500 US citizens and Afghan evacuees to safety over the past four days. More than 8,000 United employees have volunteered to participate in the missions. Assignments have ranged from onboard translators, medics, operation coordinators, crew members, and more. Many of the volunteers have personal ties to Afghanistan or to military veterans who have served there over the past two decades.
Meanwhile, United has also enlisted the aid of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and corporate partners to ensure the well-being of and care for passengers on these CRAF flights. Walgreens, the company behind the second-largest pharmacy chain in the US, has donated diapers, baby wipes, feminine hygiene supplies, and more.
Global non-profit Americares has sent medical professionals to work alongside United Airlines’ employees on the flights, providing critical services to refugees. Meanwhile, World Central Kitchen, normally focused on providing meals in the wake of natural disasters, is offering warm meals to refugees arriving in Washington D.C.
The US federal government activated the CRAF one week ago, on August 22nd. United’s first evacuation flight landed at Washington Dulles International Airport two days later, on August 24th. Meanwhile, following rising threat levels on the ground in Kabul, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) recently gave its permission for foreign operators to assist in the evacuation efforts.