Defense secretary calls on Delta, other carriers for aircraft for Afghanistan evacuees

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is among the carriers the U.S. Department of Defense called on Sunday to help transport people who have evacuated from Afghanistan.

The initial stage will include three aircraft with crews from Delta, though that could increase. The carrier’s first round of flights with evacuees is expected to arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport on Monday.

Delta’s planes are among 18 aircraft that will be used, including four planes from United Airlines; three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air and Omni Air; and two from Hawaiian Airlines.

The carriers will not fly into Kabul, but instead will move U.S. citizens, special immigrant visa applicants and “other at-risk individuals” from other locations serving as temporary safe havens and staging bases, according to the Defense Department.

The carriers are all part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, which gives the Department of Defense access to commercial airplanes to augment government airlift and allows military aircraft to focus on flights in and out of Kabul.

“For decades, Delta has actively played a role in supporting the U.S. Military and our troops,” said Delta executive vice president John Laughter in a written statement. “And we are again proud to pledge Delta people and our aircraft in support our country’s relief efforts.”

The Defense Department said it “does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights from this activation.”

Delta also said its commercial operations should not be impacted by this initial activation. The carrier will use three spare aircraft — an Airbus A350, Airbus A330 and Boeing 767-300 — for the Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation.

Delta already regularly operates charter flights carrying troops between U.S. military bases and international bases.

The Civil Reserve Air Fleet has been activated twice before, in 1990-91 for Operation Desert Shield/Storm and in 2002-03 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.