Report: Chartered Planes Leave Kabul with Hundreds of Empty Seats

Afghan women queue upon their arrival aboard a second evacuation airplane, carrying Afghan collaborators and their families, that landed at the Torrejon de Ardoz air base, 30 km away from Madrid, on August 20, 2021. - More than a hundred Afghans arrived today in Madrid, aboard the second evacuation flight …
MARISCAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Charter flights leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, have reportedly left hundreds of seats open onboard.

A Washington-based development firm, Sayara International, which has worked in Afghanistan, set up plans to try and take 1,000 Afghan refugees to Uganda last week, Wall Street Journal reported, since Uganda offered their country as a sanctuary for Afghans.

The company’s co-founders, George Abi-Habib, said the company charted three flights but ran into multiple obstacles. According to Scott Shadian, the CEO of Sayara, the Marines at the airport had refused to let Afghans in that had seats on the three planes inside the airport.

The organization apparently also asked its partners to “help fill an urgent cash shortfall” before they could fly, Shadian said. Abi-Habib added that one woman from Uganda crawled through sewage pipes to get into the airport for the plane.

After being unsuccessful in getting more people onto the flights, a 345-seat plane left Kabul airport with only 50 passengers aboard, WSJ reported.

“We can’t expect everyone to crawl through a sewer pipe to safety,” said Mr. Abi-Habib. “The window is closing.”

The Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program Director, Stacia George, has also attempted to get people out of Afghanistan. “It’s a combination of tragic, surreal and apocalyptic,” George said.

On Sunday, another flight left Kabul for Ukraine. Activists reportedly brought 40 vulnerable Afghan women to the airport. However, they were also not let through the gates of the airport.

The flight, that was supposedly waiting for the group for two days, ended up leaving without them. Since they could not get inside the airport, the flight with 240 seats was able to fill 70 seats.

“It’s so frustrating to get high-risk people up to the gate and have them risking their lives to go there and you still can’t get them through. It’s a disaster in slow and fast motion,” George added.

Follow Jacob Bliss on Twitter @jacobmbliss.


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