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Armed Forces: Aviation

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) flights and (b) passengers have been delayed at (i) Brize Norton, (ii) Kandahar and (iii) Akrotiri for more than (A) 24, (B) 48 and (C) 72 hours in the last six months; what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Afghan Air Bridge; and if he will make a statement. (313928)

Data are not recorded in the format requested as any flight that does not depart within 24 hours is replaced by a standby reserve flight and consequently the original tasking is no longer required. The required number of weekly airbridge trips has always been achieved in the time period.

There have been 14 occasions (9 per cent. of flights) since 1 July 2009 when a scheduled TriStar from Brize Norton has needed to be replaced by a reserve flight, and passengers have had to wait until at least the next day to travel. This also impacts on the return flight from Kandahar. A fallback flight has run on 19 occasions in the same period to account both for these cancelled flights and for the differing capacity between KC1 TriStars that carry 115 passengers, and C2 TriStars that can carry 190, which are normally scheduled. As a result, there have been a further five occasions when passengers will have had to wait until at least the next day to travel.

As with any aircraft, there are occasions when for technical reasons or bad weather flights are delayed; there are also operational reasons, such as casualty evacuation, when priorities may be changed causing delay to other passengers either on departure for Kandahar or returning to the UK. However, these delays have not compromised the overall performance of the Afghan Air Bridge, which is kept under constant review.