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Afghanistan evacuation: American Airlines enlisted to help

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin on Sunday activated Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, calling for 18 commercial aircraft to help transport refugees.

DALLAS — Fort Worth-based American Airlines is among the six commercial carriers being enlisted to help with the evacuation of Afghanistan refugees.

In a statement on Sunday, American said it would be ready within 24 hours to send three widebody aircraft to military bases and “other secure transit points” on the Arabian Peninsula and in Europe.

“The images from Afghanistan are heartbreaking,” American said in a statement. “The airline is proud and grateful of our pilots and flight attendants, who will be operating these trips to be a part of this life-saving effort.”

American said it will work to “minimize the impact to customers” that the program will have on its normal operations.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin on Sunday morning activated Stage I of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, calling for 18 commercial aircraft to help transport the refugees after they leave Afghanistan. 

Among the 18 planes, three will be from American Airlines. Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air will also send three planes. United Airlines will send four, and Hawaiian Airlines will send two.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is not part of the long-range international program because its aircraft, Boeing 737s, don’t have the range needed for these evacuation efforts.

None of the U.S. commercial carriers will fly directly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. military will continue ferrying out individuals from there to a neutral location in another country. If activated, American and the other commercial carriers will pick up refugees that the military has flown out of Afghanistan.

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The commercial airliners will then fly the evacuees to pre-determined locations, such as the U.S. or other countries that will accept them.

Austin’s order was just the third time in history that the Civil Reserve Air Fleet has been activated. The other two times from during Operations Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002-2003.

RELATED: Defense Secretary Austin seeks ‘creative’ ways to get Americans out of Kabul

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