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'All flights uncontrolled': Civil aviation body tells airlines to steer clear of Afghan airspace after Taliban takes Kabul

'All flights uncontrolled': Civil aviation body tells airlines to steer clear of Afghan airspace after Taliban takes Kabul
The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority has told airlines to avoid its airspace as it relinquished control to military use. The Taliban's takeover of Kabul has triggered a mass exodus, with many desperate to flee the militants.

On Monday, the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) issued an advisory notice warning airlines to avoid Kabul airspace – a defined area which covers all of Afghanistan.

"Kabul airspace has been released to the military. Advise transit aircraft to reroute," the notice, seen by Reuters, said.

While flights can still enter the airspace, the advisory highlighted that they'd no longer receive guidance from Afghan air traffic control units on the ground, warning that "any transit through Kabul airspace will be uncontrolled." "Surrounding FIRs [air traffic control regions] have been advised," it continued. 

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According to Reuters, the ACAA stated that command of the airspace had been ceded to the military, without providing further details. The US military is reportedly in charge of Kabul airport. Many airlines – including United Airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – decided on Sunday to stop using Afghanistan airspace.

The move was followed on Monday by Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Taiwan's China Airlines, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa. Lufthansa said that some of its flights to India would be one hour longer, with the extra flight time adding to fuel costs.

The Afghan airspace issue is more likely to affect flights between Europe and Asia, and further complicates some routes after Belarusian airspace was declared out-of-bounds earlier this year, following the forced diversion in that space of a passenger jet.

On Sunday, an Air India flight was forced to circle Kabul airport for 90 minutes before getting clearance to land. The plane returned to India with Afghan officials, at least two MPs and a senior adviser to the former president, on board.

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