Pakistan International Airlines suspends Kabul flights
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) suspended flights to Kabul on Thursday after what it called heavy-handed interference by Taliban authorities.
The suspension took place as the Taliban government ordered the airline, the only international carrier operating regularly out of the Afghan capital, to cut ticket prices to the levels of before the fall of the western-backed Afghan government in August.
“We are suspending our flight operations to Kabul from today because of the heavy-handedness of the authorities,” a PIA spokesman said.
Earlier, the Taliban warned PIA and Afghan carrier Kam Air that their Afghan operations risked being blocked unless they agreed to cut prices.
With most airlines no longer flying to Afghanistan, tickets for flights to Islamabad have been selling for as much as $2,500 on PIA, according to travel agents in Kabul, compared with $120-$150 before.
Abdullah, a 26 year-old employee of a pharmaceuticals company, said the PIA flights had been “a tiny window” for Afghans trying to leave the country. “We are in bad need of these flights. The borders are closed, now if the airport is closed, it is like we are all in a cage,” he said.
PIA, which runs chartered flights to Kabul, said it had maintained the flights on humanitarian grounds and faced insurance premiums of as much as $400,000 as Kabul was treated as a war zone by insurers.
No comment was immediately available from Kam Air.
PIA said ever since the new Taliban government was formed, its staff in Kabul had faced last-minute changes in regulations and flight permissions and intimidating behaviour from Taliban commanders