Turmoil at Kabul airport as ‘last commercial flight’ departs

Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 finally leaves after five hours on the ground but all airlines have now  suspended operations

Kabul/Hamid Karzai airport has descended into chaos as residents try to flee the Afghan capital after the Taliban took control of the city over the weekend. 

Foreign airlines including Emirates, flydubai and Air Arabia have suspended flights from the country’s main hub. 

TC-JJM, seen here in Istambul in 2019, is believed to have been the last commercial flight to leave Kabul. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air – which are both based in Kabul – have also cancelled their services from the facility. 

The halt on flights follows the release of two NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) from the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority. The first advises pilots that Kabul airspace has been released to the military and recommends that aircraft reroute around. It adds that any transit through will be uncontrolled. 

The second announces that the civilian side of Hamid Karzai is “closed until further notice”. 

A Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER, which departed the Afghan capital at 1.14pm local time (8.44am GMT) bound for Istanbul is thought to have been the last commercial flight to leave the city. 

On its inbound leg, the jet, TC-JJM (c/n 40794), was operating a daily scheduled service between the two capitals. The widebody held just inside the Afghan airspace for around 30 minutes before continuing to Kabul. 

After what was supposed to be only an hour and a half on the ground, the jet appeared to encounter a problem taking off because it returned to stand after reaching the runway. It later taxied back for take-off and successfully departed after five hours and 30 minutes on the ground. 

The military was seen using Apache helicopters to clear the runway for departing flights.  

Videos circulating on social media showed chaotic scenes of people attempting to cling to a US Air Force C-17 aircraft. 

Turkish Airlines appears to have cancelled all subsequent flights to the country until further notice. 

It now appears to be the case that the only flights entering and leaving Afghanistan are military aircraft.