Commercial aviation, conflict and the impact of the CRAF

Scenes from Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL/OAKB) have engaged our attention since Sunday 15th August. Evacuations accelerated. A week later, on Sunday 22nd August, the United States (US) activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), however these commercial aircraft will not fly into KBL. They will be used for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.

The CRAF is a cooperative, voluntary program involving the US and the U.S. civil air carrier industry in a partnership to augment aircraft capability during a national defense related crisis. Air carriers volunteer their aircraft to the CRAF program through contractual agreements with the U.S. and in return, the participating carriers are given preference in carrying commercial peacetime cargo and passenger traffic for the DOD.

The US explain that activating CRAF increases passenger movement beyond organic capability and allows military aircraft to focus on operations in and out of in Kabul. As at the time of posting, over 50,000 persons have been evacuated by the US  

Insurance is essential for commercial aviation but aviation insurance may not be available or economically feasible to air carriers when CRAF is activated. Commercial airlines purchase all-risks insurance to cover losses due to mechanical failure, weather, or pilot error. They also purchase war-risk insurance to cover losses due to terrorism, acts of war, or other hostile acts. However, many commercial insurance policies have a war exclusion clause or a CRAF mission exclusion clause, such that commercial insurers can cancel war-risk coverage upon activation of the CRAF or charge unreasonably high surcharges for the war-risk coverage. To protect commercial air carriers from these types of eventualities and ensure adequate coverage, the Aviation Insurance Program was established in 1951. 

The CRAF order is for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines. 

United Airlines’ (UAL) first flight under CRAF flew Sunday 22nd from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. We wish all participating carriers safe flying in these unusual times.