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Air Arabia resumes flights to Kabul

AT News

KABUL – Air Arabia, the budget airline headquartered in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, is set to resume flights to Kabul from its primary base at Sharjah starting January 10. The interruption in services from non-Afghan carriers persisted for two years following a change in regime within the Central Asian nation.

The Afghan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation announced that Jazeera Airways, a low-cost carrier based in the United Arab Emirates, is also positioning to commence international service to Kabul shortly after the resumption of Air Arabia’s flights. FlyDubai, a low-cost carrier based in Dubai, recently achieved a milestone by becoming the first international carrier to resume flights to Afghanistan after the suspension of services by international airlines in 2021.

While Kabul is currently served by both Ariana Afghan Airlines, the national flag carrier, and Kam Air, the largest privately-owned airline in the country, Air Arabia’s announcement marks the first foreign airline to resume international flights to the airport. With the forthcoming operations of Jazeera Airways and Air Arabia, the total count of international carriers operating at Kabul’s airport will be three, marking a notable decrease from the six carriers that previously served the capital city.

Ministry spokesperson, Imamuddin Ahmadi, expressed optimism about the development, emphasizing that these flights would enhance transportation choices for the public. He highlighted the expectation that healthy competition among carriers would contribute to lower prices, ultimately benefiting Afghan travelers.

The Ministry of Transport is optimistic that the resumption of these flights could serve as a positive signal, encouraging more carriers to resume operations at airports across Afghanistan. The country boasts several other airports meeting international flight operation standards, including Kandahar International Airport (KDH) and Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport (MZR), the latter already serviced by Iranian carrier Mahan Air.

The consistent resumption of international services signifies a significant economic milestone for the Taliban regime in the Middle East. However, the choice of specific carriers resuming flights underscores that it is leisure travel, rather than business travel, that is currently steering interest in serving Afghanistan.

Noteworthy is the absence of plans for service resumptions by legacy carriers such as Turkish Airlines, Emirates, and Air India, all of which have previously operated flights to Kabul. This suggests that despite the easing of political relations between other Middle Eastern nations and the new Afghan regime, the full restoration of economic relationships is yet to materialize.

Businesses, even within the Arab world, remain cautious about re-engaging with Afghan companies, likely influenced by sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union. Business travel, a cornerstone for legacy airlines, has yet to make a comeback to Afghanistan, with Ariana Afghan Airlines remaining the sole international legacy carrier operating flights to Kabul.

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