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Dubai based Airlines Emirates and it’s low-cost subsidiary FlyDubai have made the move to suspend flights from Dubai (DXB) to Kabul (KBL) following reports that Taliban forces have now effectively gained control of the Afghan capital following weeks of fighting with the Afghan National Army and Police. 

Emirates EK640 spent an hour over Kabul before returning to Dubai.
Image courtesy of Flightradar24

On Sunday 15th August, Emirates flight EK640, a scheduled service to Kabul was seen on Flightradar24 tracking preparing to land but instead, circled the Afghan capital at 28,000ft for roughly an hour before making a swift return to it’s Dubai home base. 

FlyDubai FZ305 did not even make Afghan airspace before returning to Dubai. Image courtesy of Flightradar24

On the same day, FlyDubai flight FZ305, another scheduled service to Kabul made an abrupt U-turn back to Dubai over Iran just as it was on the cusp of entering Afghan airspace.

Speaking with Reuters, an Emirates spokesperson said that the group is currently monitoring developments in Afghanistan and is working closely with relevant authorities to ensure the safety of services. 

What’s happening on the ground?

Naturally, it can be said that there are several good reasons why the Emirates Group has decided to pull the plug on Afghanistan for now, with safety and security being the most pertinent concern for the group. On Sunday when EK640 and FZ305 made diversions back to Dubai, scenes of anarchy and chaos were witnessed on the ground in Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, with a sea of people rushing onto the airport tarmac and runways, desperate to find a way out of the beleaguered nation. As of now, 5 people are reported to have died from stampedes within the airport complex. 

And in more shocking footage taken on the ground in Kabul, hundreds of civilians can be seen trying to clamber on board a US Military C17 Globemaster taking off from the airport. 

WARNING: The below video may not be suitable for the faint-of-heart. As the C17 eventually managed to takeoff, individuals who managed to cling onto parts of the aircraft were seen falling to their deaths from a few hundred feet. Preliminary reports have emerged that 3 people have died trying escape in such a manner. 

What about Afghan airspace?

For the past few years, Afghan airspace has provided airlines with key air corridors to travel from east to west and vice versa. However, with the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground and a loss of control on part of Afghan authorities, it is now allegedly reported that whilst the airspace is still available for use, carriers are now advised to either divert or enter at their own risk with no Air Traffic Control (ATC). As a result, most airlines have chosen to stay clear of the area for now. 

Our take, for now

The  scenes from Kabul Airport that we are witnessing at the moment is truly saddening and shocking, with the nation descending into a state of chaos following the arrival of the Taliban into the Afghan capital. From an aviation standpoint, given how rapidly the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating at the moment, it is unlikely that if one were taking a flight from Asia to Europe or vice versa that carriers would choose to use Afghan airspace at this point in time. 

This post will be updated as we receive more information regarding aviation developments in the area……. 

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