SpiceJet suspends flights to Kabul after second rocket attack on airport

SpiceJet today announced a temporary suspension of its thrice-weekly flights from Delhi to Kabul in the wake of a pre-dawn rocket attack on the airport on Thursday. The airport had earlier come under rocket fire on 3 July when a SpiceJet flight was pushing back.

SpiceJet BoeingSpiceJet operated flights to the Afghan capital on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while national carrier Air India flies five times a week to Kabul.

Air India and Jet Airways, meanwhile, decided to avoid the airspace of war-torn eastern Ukraine following a directive issued by the DGCA in the wake of the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in which all 295 people on board were killed on Thursday.

In a statement, the Chennai-based SpiceJet said it has decided to temporarily suspend flights to Kabul due to security situation in Kabul and its airport.

''In view of the above, we have decided to take this step as the safety of our passengers and crew is of paramount importance to us. We will offer passengers a full refund and will also try to request other airlines that operate to Kabul to accommodate them if they still desire to travel,'' said the statement.

The airline's decision to suspend operations comes a day after militants carried out a pre-dawn attack on Kabul airport and subsequent gun battle with security forces on Thursday, which led to a temporary shut-down of the facility.

SpiceJet had since cancelled the day's flight and later announced a complete suspension of operations in the morning today.

Air India is the only other Indian carrier which operates regular flights to the Afghan capital and it is not yet known whether it will continue its flights.

The security situation in Kabul has been fragile for and airline pilots say their aircraft could be got down while they were coming into land by an extremist using a shoulder-held rocket launcher.

Aircraft landing in Kabul come just hundred of meters above the ground and many pilots they are sitting targets for a missile attack as unlike the sophisticated rocket launcher which is believed to have got down the Malaysia aircraft which was flying at 10 km over the earth, militants can shoot them down with the help of a shoulder-held rocket launcher.

Flights to Kabul are normally operated after the local administration gives the all clear for flights to be operated.

But the shooting down of the Malaysia Airline aircraft on a flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur has also raised issues about the safety of flights that SpiceJet and Air India operate to Kabul.

The aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation issued instructions to Air India and Jet Airways, the only two Indian carriers that fly to Europe and North America, to avoid Ukrainian airspace while flying to and from destinations in both the continents, official sources said here.

An Air India official said they would abide by any international advisory ''to avoid airspace over conflict zone like Ukraine''.

Airlines have to take a call on the routing to America and European destinations. There are several routes to go to the US and Europe and airlines have to take a call whether to abide by global aviation advisory on such issues, sources said.