Flights stopped as the Taliban seized control, but numbers are back up and the vast majority of aircraft are now military
First published on Wed 25 Aug 2021 15.12 BST
Kabul airport’s air traffic rebounded earlier this week due to an increase in military aircraft evacuating people, Guardian analysis has revealed.
Fewer than 15 aircraft arrived or departed each day between 16 and 19 August, according to data from Flightradar24.
It recovered to about 100 a day between 22 and 23 August – the latest day for which data is available. This is around the level seen before the Taliban seized power in Kabul.
Altogether, 272 flights departed between 14 and 23 August, while 237 arrived at Kabul. Many of these arrivals spent a matter of hours on the tarmac before returning the next day.
In a sign of the uncertainty over the security situation in Afghanistan, just 14 aircraft arrived at Kabul airport between Monday 16 August and Wednesday 18 August – the first three days when it was clear the Taliban had taken control of Afghanistan’s capital city.
Even though air traffic has increased at the airport, Flightradar24’s data makes it clear that it is not operating as normal.
Analysis of the type of aircraft arriving at and departing from the airport shows that military aircraft now make up the vast majority of traffic, at about four in every five planes.
Before the fall of Kabul, civilian aircraft made up the majority of flights and military aircraft only constituted 1% of traffic.
Aircraft before Kabul’s fall included dozens of Boeing 737s, Airbus A343s and A310s. More recently, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, a large military transport aircraft, is the most common aircraft recorded at the airport.
Since 14 August, the country receiving most flights from Kabul was the United Arab Emirates, which received at least 31 flights between 14 and 23 August. Uzbekistan and Pakistan were the next most common destinations.
Of the 272 recorded outbound flights, 110 had unknown destinations, with these flights often being military aircraft. Twenty-eight flights landed back in Afghanistan, most of which landed again at Kabul airport, probably after reconnaissance missions.
Reports suggest that UK and US evacuation flights are initially flying to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Of the 237 inbound flights between 14 and 23 August, 144 had an unknown origin, according to the data. Of the flights that had known origins, 19 came from Uzbekistan, 11 from Pakistan and nine from each of the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
The explanatory text on the graph in this article showing inbound flights was amended on 31 August 2021 to correctly refer to flights arriving at Kabul, not departing from there as an earlier version said.