Rest of Asia

Air India flight hovers over Kabul for nearly an hour before permission for landing

PTI/New Delhi
Filed on August 15, 2021
Reuters file photo for illustrative purpose

The airline says there is no plan yet to cancel the Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight

An Air India flight from Delhi hovered over the Kabul airport for about an hour on Sunday, waiting for the air traffic control permission before it could finally land with 40 passengers on board.

The corresponding return flight left the Afghanistan capital hours later with 129 passengers as Taliban fighters closed in on the city, officials said. According to officials of Air India, there is no plan yet to cancel the Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight and it is scheduled to operate on Monday too.

However, they said, the airline is monitoring the situation closely and it will take appropriate action as and when required.

Currently, only Air India is operating flights between India and Afghanistan.

The national carrier operated its Delhi-Kabul leg of the flight (with call sign AI-243) on Sunday afternoon with around 40 passengers, officials said.

Officials said AI-243 departed from Delhi at 12.45pm (Indian Standard Time) and had to hover for around one hour above the Kabul airport as it did not get permission to land from the air traffic control (ATC). They stated it was not clear what was the reason for the delay in the permission.

Therefore, the flight time for AI-243 on Sunday was around two hours and fifty minutes instead of usual one hour and forty minutes.

The return flight departed from the Kabul airport with 129 passengers at 5.35pm (Indian Standard Time) and landed in Delhi around 7.40pm.

India has put in place contingency plans to evacuate hundreds of its officials and citizens from Kabul that has been gripped by fear and panic following reports of Taliban fighters entering the outskirts of the Afghan capital city on Sunday.

People familiar with the development said the government will not put the lives of its staff at the Indian embassy and Indian citizens in Kabul at any risk and plans have already been finalised in case they require emergency evacuation.

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