KABUL (AFP): A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane has become the first international commercial flight to touch down at Kabul airport since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August.
The PIA aeroplane carrying a handful of passengers from Islamabad to Kabul touched down earlier today, AFP reported.
According to an AFP journalist aboard the PIA plane, the flight hardly had any passengers, around 10 people. The journalist added that the plane had more staff than passengers.
A PIA spokesperson on Sunday had said that the airline was keen to resume regular commercial services, but it was too soon to say how frequently flights between the two capitals would operate.
The spokesperson had added that flights to and from Kabul depend on “a lot of factors on the ground that are still to be managed.”
Qatar Airways operated several charter flights out of Kabul last week, carrying mostly foreigners and Afghans who missed out on the evacuation.
An Afghan airline resumed domestic services on September 3.
“This is a big moment. We are very excited,” said one airport employee, dressed in a blue shalwar kameez and orange high-visibility vest.
“It’s a hopeful day. Maybe other airlines will see this and decide to come back.”
A bus painted with a “Welcome to Afghanistan” was waiting to ferry the passengers from the plane to the terminal, but in the end, the new arrivals walked.
Around 100 passengers were waiting to catch the return flight to Islamabad — mostly relatives of staffers with international organisations such as the World Bank, according to airport ground staff.
Kabul airport was severely damaged during a chaotic evacuation of more than 120,000 people that ended with the withdrawal of US forces on August 30.
The Taliban have been scrambling to get it operating again with technical assistance from Qatar and other nations.