Pakistani airline says it will stop flying to Kabul due to Taliban interference just a few weeks after restarting flights

·2 min read
Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul
Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul AAMIR QURESHI/Getty Images
  • Pakistan International Airlines has halted operations in Kabul due to Taliban "heavy-handed" interference.

  • The carrier accused the Taliban of intimidating staff and making last-minute arbitrary rule changes.

  • PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan said operating in Afghanistan was "impossible" due to high insurance premiums.

Pakistan International Airlines suspended operations into Kabul Airport on Thursday, citing Taliban "heavy-handed" interference, including arbitrary rule changes and staff intimidation, as the reason, according to Reuters.

Pakistan International Airlines has halted operations into Kabul on Thursday after the Taliban sent a letter to it and Kam Air demanding they lower ticket prices to levels before the takeover of the Western-backed Afghan government, according to Reuters. The suspension comes just a month after the airline resumed flights to the Afghan capital on September 13. PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told CNN the decision to return "was taken on purely humanitarian grounds, and on the strong insistence of friendly organizations."

According to Reuters, ticket prices have skyrocketed since PIA resumed operations in Kabul, with the airline charging as much as $2,500 to fly to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Before the Taliban takeover, the same route sold for $120 to $150. Reuters reported that in a statement sent to PIA, the Afghan transport ministry threatened to stop flights into Kabul unless the airline adjusted their prices "to correspond with the conditions of a ticket before the victory of the Islamic Emirate."

PIA said the Taliban's ruling thumb has made conditions unworkable, explaining commanders were "changing regulations and flight permissions at the last moments or deciding at a whim rather than meeting international regulations," reported CNN. The airline has also accused the Taliban of cutting half of the passengers from one flight this week as they were checking in, according to CNN, causing chaos for travelers and costing PIA half a million dollars.

"This resulted in 176 people, fleeing for their lives, being sent back home by the airline officials, causing nearly half a million-dollar loss to the airline due to higher insurance costs," the airline said.

Khan told CNN that operating flights into Kabul was "impossible" because "it is still considered a war zone by aircraft insurance companies," which charge excessively high premiums up to $400,000 per flight, according to Reuters.

Khan said PIA will revisit the operation in Kabul "if the situation on the ground improves and [becomes] more conducive for international operations."

Last month, the new Taliban government asked international carriers to resume operations in Afghanistan, promising "full cooperation." However, PIA said commanders have shown "highly intimidating behavior" towards staff. The airline cited one instance in which a representative from the company was "held up at gunpoint for hours when he left the Pakistan embassy compound" because the Taliban thought he was "aiding and abetting" refugees trying to escape Afghanistan.

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