United Airways reroutes planes round Afghanistan, Emirates suspends Kabul flights

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner lands at London Heathrow International Airport in England, UK.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

United Airlines began diverting its India flights on Sunday to bypass Afghan airspace after Taliban fighters entered the capital, Kabul, sealing a takeover of the country and US officials sought to evacuate their personnel.

“Due to the dynamic nature of the situation, we have started to route affected flights in Afghan airspace,” the airline said in a statement. The airline serves Delhi daily from its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport and five times a week from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It also flies daily from Newark to Mumbai. The flights are among the longest routes.

United said it will “continue to work closely” with the Federal Aviation Administration and the International Air Transport Association “to assess the situation and determine how we will continue to serve the affected markets.”

United is the only major US passenger airline currently flying non-stop to India.

The FAA on July 25 banned US airlines from crossing Afghan airspace below 26,000 feet, which is lower than cruising altitude on such long flights, “because of the risk posed by extremist / militant activity and limited risk mitigation.”

A United spokeswoman said the decision to fly through Afghanistan on Sunday was her own.

Flydubai and Emirates said they have suspended flights to Kabul.

“Customers who have tickets with a final destination to Kabul will not be accepted for travel at their departure point,” said Emirates, instructing customers to contact the airline or travel agent.

Emirates airline flight EK640, a Boeing 777-300, returned to Dubai early Sunday after approaching Kabul. The US embassy in Kabul warned of reports of fire at the airport.

The US State Department said late Sunday it was working to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to allow US personnel, local employees, their families and “other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals” to fly civil and military flights out of the country evacuate.

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