Uncertainty surrounded Afghanistan as it fell into the hands of the Taliban group in a matter of a few days. The country has shut its airspace for commercial flights, forcing the airlines to reroute international flights transiting through Afghanistan, including the flights between India and the US.
The India-US flights that fly from India to Pakistan and then Afghanistan for their onward journey to the US would most likely be rerouted toward Iran or the Arabian Gulf. Longer routes mean longer flight duration, which could be anything between 35 to 75 minutes more than the usual flight time.
The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority reportedly issued two NOTAMs (notice to airmen) last week, advising overflying commercial aircraft to reroute, stating there would be no air traffic control (ATC). As per the notice, the Kabul airspace, which covers the entire nation, would remain closed until further notice.
“Kabul airspace has been released to the military. Advise transit aircraft to reroute,” the notice said.
In the wake of this sudden announcement, Air India canceled its only commercial flight between India and Afghanistan (the Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight), which the airline had been using to evacuate Indians stranded in Afghanistan. The carrier also diverted its Chicago-Delhi and San Francisco-Delhi flights toward Sharjah for refueling. United, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic were the first airlines to avoid the Kabul airspace even before the Afghanistan airspace was announced closed by the authorities of the country. Lufthansa, Qatar, and Singapore among others have also stopped flying over Afghanistan. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked Indian carriers using the Afghan airspace to look for alternative routes till things settle in Afghanistan.