Afghan air space to be avoided as major airlines re route

Aug 16, 2021: Major airlines have decided to re-route flights to avoid Afghan air space as they worry more about the risks of flying over conflict zones after two deadly incidents in recent years.

Major airlines are rerouting flights to avoid Afghanistan’s airspace after the Taliban took control of the presidential palace in Kabul as US-led forces departed and Western nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens.

United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said they were not using the country’s airspace.

A spokesman for the United Nations said the change affected the airline’s many flights from the United States to India. Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed some commercial flights over Afghanistan at 03:00 GMT on Monday while several planes were flying more than neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

Airlines and governments have paid close attention to the dangers of flying in conflict zones after two deadly ground-to-air incidents in recent years. A Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board, and a Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down by the Iranian military in 2020, killing all 176 passengers and crew.

“Due to the situation in Afghanistan, we are flying our cargo flights at higher altitudes,” a spokesperson said. “We are closely monitoring the situation and we plan to review shifting our routes if necessary.”

Taiwan’s China Airlines said it was keeping an eye on the situation and would adjust flight paths if needed in accordance with US and EU airspace instructions. It did not elaborate.

Commercial flights set to land in Afghanistan have also been affected by the chaos on the ground. Emirates has suspended flights to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, until further notice, the airline said on its website.

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