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Coronavirus Pandemic Hits Afghan Airlines Hard

A Kam Air plane at Kabul Airport.

Nilofer Safar, a young Afghan air hostess, faces an uncertain future after being grounded for more than three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic that has hit the global airline industry especially hard.

“I miss doing my job on domestic and international flights,” she told Radio Free Afghanistan. “I hope that this [coronavirus] pandemic soon ends and we can resume normal flights.”

Safar’s employer, Kam Air, is the leading private airline in Afghanistan. Its fleet consisting of a dozen small and large aircraft used to carry 26 international and six domestic flights daily.

Kam Air Commercial Director Sulaiman Omar says the government should waive taxes to help them get through this difficult patch.

Nilofer Safar is a young Afghan air hostess
Nilofer Safar is a young Afghan air hostess

“If this situation continues, not only Kam Air but both of the Afghan airlines will be broke,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan, alluding to the prospects of his company and national carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines. “We don’t have any money.”

Omar says that despite being grounded they still owe the government parking fees, airport charges, and other taxes. “If our liabilities continue to mount, we will not be able to fly again,” he noted.

Afghanistan’s civil aviation authorities say the aviation industry in their country has lost more than $20 million since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced Afghan airlines to cut flights from early March and ultimately prompted them to cease all flights by the end of the month.

Muhammad Naeem Salehi, a spokesman for the Afghan civil aviation authority, says they have sent a formal request to the Afghan government to request waiving parking and landing fees for the airlines. “We will implement it as soon as it is approved,” he said.

As the coronavirus pandemic virtually forced global passenger airlines to a halt, the industry is expected to lose hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues.

But many airlines are expected to recover once the demand for global travel rises after the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

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    RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan, is based in Kabul and supported by a nationwide network of local Dari- and Pashto-speaking journalists. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.