US Orders Six Commercial Airlines, Including Delta, American And United To Help In Afghanistan Evacuations

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has asked commercial airlines in the U.S. to provide planes to help in Afghanistan evacuation efforts.

What Happened: Austin has activated a program used only three times in the last 30 years to require U.S. commercial airlines to provide planes to help speed up evacuation

According to Pentagon officials, the aircraft wouldn’t fly in and out of Afghanistan but carry evacuees in and out of Qatar, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates bases. 

The airliners would augment military flights carrying Afghans to Germany, Italy, Spain, and other stops in Europe, ultimately to the United States for many Afghans. 

Austin has ordered the Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command to activate Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF).

The current activation is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines Group Inc AALAtlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. AAWWDelta Air Lines, Inc. DAL, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. HA; and four from United Airlines Holdings Inc UAL

“CRAF activation provides the Department of Defense access to commercial air mobility resources to augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

CRAF activated aircraft will be used to move passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.

Stage 1 of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet was created in 1952 after the Berlin airlift.  

This is the third CRAF activation in the history of the program. The first occurred in support of Operations Desert Shield/Storm (Aug. 1990 to May 1991), and the second was for Operation Iraqi Freedom (Feb. 2002 to June 2003). 

Why It Matters: According to Kirby, the Pentagon does not anticipate a major impact on commercial flights from this activation. 

The commercial aircraft used by the military will retain their civilian status and operate under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the Pentagon said. But they will be under the control of the U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for U.S. military flights. 

Photo by: Courtesy of Delta Airlines

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