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Delta supports CRAF mission | Philadelphia team welcomes evacuees with 'overnight kit'

The Delta difference is clearly on display across the operation as we continue our mission of bringing thousands of Afghan evacuees to the U.S.

Passengers board a Delta plane at Ramstein Air Base.

Delta's CRAF Mission Stats
Updated: 3 p.m. ET, Sept. 16

40 9,885

Editor's note: This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

1 p.m. ET Sept. 8 | Afghanistan evacuees welcomed to Philadelphia with ‘Overnight Delta Kit’

Evacuees from Afghanistan are being welcomed to the United States with gifts prepared by Delta people in Philadelphia.

The journey to the United States for the evacuees is long – several flights over the course of several days. For more than two weeks, Delta has supported the federal governments activation of a Civil Reserve Air Fleet, helping to bring people evacuating from Afghanistan to the United States. People flying on Delta jets have been arriving into Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).

As flights arrived into PHL Delta’s team, led by PHL Station Manager Gerome Sene and Field Director Olive Brown, noticed that many of the people coming off the plane needed some of the basics every traveler would be familiar with -- snacks and personal hygiene products. Many of those supplies were already on hand at Delta’s operation in Philadelphia.

“The Philadelphia team came up with an idea to improve on the original offering and got to work,” said Ravindra Dadhich, Managing Director of Airport Operations.

On behalf of Delta Air Lines, we would like to welcome you to the United States,” the message reads. “Delta is honored to be a part of your journey.”

Not only did each “Overnight Delta Kit” include the requisite items, it also included something else that was essential: a thoughtful Delta message written in Pashto and English. “On behalf of Delta Air Lines, we would like to welcome you to the United States,” the message reads. “Delta is honored to be a part of your journey.”

The Philadelphia team is committed to making sure every evacuee gets a bag, which has meant late nights of extra work. But they plan to see it through by handing out bags for every CRAF flight planned through September 17.

“We all feel a sense of gratitude to be a part of this,” Dadhich said.

2 p.m. ET Sept. 3: Delta people, partners step up to support CRAF mission

Delta people and its partners have stepped up in support of the federal government’s activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

For nearly two weeks, Delta’s operation at Washington Dulles International Airport has been the center of that effort, as CRAF flights carrying evacuees from Afghanistan make their way to the United States.

Delta people from around the nation, representing several divisions and disciplines are in Washington to contribute their time, skill and experience. That effort is expected to continue through mid-September.

In Washington, Delta has partnered with the American Red Cross and Walmart to provide and ship supplies for evacuees overseas, including 40,000 pounds of comfort kits for the American Red Cross.

11 a.m. ET Sept. 2: One marker. One piece of paper. A lifetime connection.

A drawing given to a Delta employee by an Afghan evacuee.

In-Flight Service Program Manager Bonita Ebert has been working to support Delta’s flights related to the U.S. government’s activation of a Civil Reserve Air Fleet. Below is Bonita’s first-person account of the connections she made with some of Delta’s youngest passengers on a long journey.

By Bonita Ebert, Delta Air Lines

I volunteered for this trip, as my background is in counterterrorism, where I worked with refugees from Afghanistan and the Middle East before my time at Delta. From those trips, I remember how the children loved to draw.

During my quick layover in Mainz, Germany, I went from store to store trying to find coloring items that would be enough for every child on the plane. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out and had heard of crews running out of items because of how many children have been on these flights. I finally settled on buying markers and notebooks knowing I could at least hand out pieces of paper and one marker per kid for them to draw to their heart's content.

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6 p.m. ET Sept. 1: Delta hosts TRANSCOM deputy commander at IAD

Delta CRAF team hosts TRANSCOM at IAD.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement of Delta.

The Delta difference is clearly on display across the operation as we continue our mission of bringing thousands of Afghan evacuees to the U.S. -  and that especially goes for our dedicated leaders at Dulles International Airport where we’ve already completed nearly 20 flights since last week.

“Very quickly it became clear that the processing of hundreds of evacuees at a time coming in on multiple flights was causing a logjam with Customs and Border Protection,” said IAD station manager, Faiz Syed. “Sadly, aircraft full of evacuees and Delta crew were sitting on the tarmac for hours after landing, some as long as 12 hours. This was not the experience we envisioned for these exhausted evacuees who had just flown hours across the Atlantic to reach their new homes.”

Delta CRAF team hosts TRANSCOM at IAD
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement of Delta.

In order to make some headway in process improvements, Delta IAD station leaders including Faiz, ACS Field Director Elizabeth Dickinson and Delta’s S.V.P for Government Affairs, Heather Wingate, hosted TRANSCOM deputy commander Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne for an airport tour. The vice admiral was escorted around the airport by our team for a nearly three-hour visit, where they pointed out and explained in great detail the operational challenges Delta and other CRAF carriers were experiencing.

Delta CRAF team hosts TRANSCOM at IAD
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement of Delta.

“It was an honor to show Vice Adm. Mewbourne around the airport, in particular the tarmac area where several of our planes had been idling for hours with hundreds of evacuees on board,” said Dickinson. “With the vice admiral’s help, we are now able to move people off planes in a quicker fashion and into an airport holding facility, where they can stretch their legs, get medical treatment and for many, reunite with friends and family members.”

Delta CRAF team hosts TRANSCOM at IAD
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement of Delta.

6 p.m. ET Aug. 31: What it's like on board a Delta flight bringing Afghanistan evacuees to America

When “Nick” (Delta is using an alias to protect the evacuee’s identity) boarded Delta’s A350-900 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, he arrived ready to serve the flight crew and his countrymen: The medical professional was prepared to jump in and help with translations or medical assistance if needed during the journey.

Nick was among about 300 passengers aboard the Delta flight operating in support of the U.S. government’s activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. The flight brought people from Ramstein to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. — a connection to the U.S. for those escaping a precarious situation in Afghanistan.

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6 p.m. ET Aug. 31: Delta’s CRAF support evolves

Delta is continuing its support of the federal government’s CRAF activation with updates the aircraft serving international routes and preparing to support flying passengers to military installations within the United States.

Starting Wednesday (Sept. 1) all of Delta’s international CRAF missions will be operated using A330 aircraft. The Boeing 767ER and A350 aircraft that operated as part of the mission thus far will return to the commercial service.

Delta will primarily operate CRAF missions between Ramstein Air Force Base in western German and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

Also starting Wednesday (Sept. 1), Delta will operate domestic CRAF flights moving Afghanistan evacuees between Dulles and military bases in Wisconsin and New Mexico.

Delta will begin flying evacuees from Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on Sept. 4.

12:15 p.m. Miles4Migrants: How to Donate Miles to Help Afghan Evacuees

SkyMiles is partnering with Miles4Migrants to support their mission to help refugee community members – including Afghan evacuees – reach safe homes.  

Now through Sept. 30, Delta will match up to 10 million miles donated through this page. Customers can select the mileage amount they would like to donate, and all miles will be used to help fund Delta flights for refugees in need of airfare to relocate and reunite families around the world.

11:30 a.m. ET Aug. 31: CRAF missions continue

Delta people are continuing their efforts to operate flights in support of the federal government’s activation of a Civil Reserve Air Fleet. As of Tuesday morning, the airline has accomplished the following:

  • 18 – Fights completed
  • 4,551 – Passengers carried
  • 17 – Flights remaining

Delta Community Engagement and Cargo teams have also supported the American Red Cross by moving 40,000 pounds of comfort kits from its Pennsylvania warehouse to locations supporting CRAF missions overseas. Those items are being given the evacuees from Afghanistan as they continue their journey.

Delta Cargo has further supported the missions by shipping an additional 21,000 pounds of supplies for provisioning flights and other relief supplies.

3 p.m. ET Aug. 27: 'The future is theirs': Delta pilot reflects on flights in CNN interview

As Delta people continue to support the federal governments Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation, we’re hearing first hand accounts from flight crews.

Delta Pilot Alexander Kahn appeared on CNN’s New Day Friday morning. He spoke with host John Berman about his experience flying Afghanistan evacuees to America and reflected on the opportunity to be a part of the mission.

"The American people have always come together and helped when it was time to help,” Kahn said.

Kahn recounted how the Delta Flight Attendants he was working with purchased supplies, toys and games to bring on board, a reflection of their anticipation of their passenger’s needs and a desire to make the flight comfortable.

“We’re a generous country because we’re a generous people and the future is theirs,” Kahn said.​

11 a.m. ET Aug. 27: CNN features Delta crews supporting Afghanistan evacuees

CNN got an inside look at the massive operation in support of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, featuring footage and interviews with the Delta crews making it happen.

“We did everything we could to make everyone comfortable and feel protected … and quite frankly, loved,” said Flight Attendant Daniel Thames.

Flight Attendant Joshua Miller recalled the moment the crew saw some of the evacuees standing near the hangar: “I think that’s when it really clicked, when we were all like, OK, this is game time. These are people that we are bringing back to the United States … to escape.”

4 p.m. ET Aug. 26: From the Middle East to Dulles, Delta crews ‘make stuff work’

Passengers board a flight at Ramstein Air Base.

There’s a common response among Delta people working at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to the question: “How would you describe the work we’re doing?”


As more than 200 evacuees from Afghanistan boarded one of Delta’s 767-300ERs on Wednesday afternoon, it’s hard not to be proud. The people climbing the boarding stairs spanned generations of families — from grandparents to small children and babies.

For all of them, the journey so far has been a long one, with multiple stops along the way. Getting all of those passengers on the flight requires precise coordination and teamwork among Delta, the U.S. Air Force, and various government agencies at Ramstein. The work requires quick thinking and collaboration.

“It’s a constant, evolving process,” said Scott Turner, Delta Charter Field Operations Manager.

Turner recounted a moment from one of the first flights of Delta’s support of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet activation. After all the passengers boarded, as the door closed, passengers nearby approached for one final handshake of thanks and appreciation.

“All of the stress and the drama and everything going on, it just washes away in that moment,” he said.

It’s complicated work Delta’s teams are taking on at Ramstein, other airports in Germany, the Middle East and at Dulles International Airport. But every flight is another opportunity to come together, learn and improve.

“It’s what we do,” Turner said. “It takes everybody and all the divisions to come together and make stuff work. We couldn’t do it without everybody working together.”

It’s that teamwork, that ever-present attitude that we can and must get this done for our passengers, that keeps Delta people here going.

As Turner says: “It’s fulfilling.”

11 a.m. ET Aug. 26: Crews describe emotional airlifts for Afghanistan evacuees  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a report on the work of Delta crews supporting the government’s activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. The story included interviews with Pilots Todd Badura and Joe MacGillivray and Flight Attendant Dale Grimes.

They detailed the massive undertaking by Delta crews to not only transport evacuees to safety, but provide diapers, formula and other necessary provisions for dozens of small children on board. The crew described an emotional and powerful trip for those serving. The AJC’s Kelly Yamanouchi writes:

When the plane finally landed at Dulles, there was another wait on the ground for customs processing before passengers finally were able to get off the plane and onto U.S. soil.

MacGillivray said “That’s when the gravity of the situation hit me.”

He looked at the departing passengers carrying plastic bags and realized “that’s all that they have, that they left their country with.”

“That’s when it really hit me, what we just did,” MacGillivray said.

1 p.m. ET Aug. 25: Pilots, Flight Attendants volunteer for a solemn mission

A Delta flight crew boards for a Civil Reserve Air Fleet flight.

As Delta continues to support the U.S. government's activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, it's the flight crews that will spend the most meaningful time with evacuees from Afghanistan. It's a mission for which many of these Delta Flight Attendants and Pilots have volunteered.

"It's part of history," Flight Attendant Kurt Wolfe said before departing Dulles International Airport. "It's an amazing opportunity."

Delta will operate more than two dozen CRAF flights, committing four wide-body jets and countless hours of employee efforts to the mission.

Delta Pilot Brett Dunham is among those who will fly Afghanistan evacuees to the U.S. Before departing Dulles, he and his colleagues on the flight deck were absorbing information being provided by Delta's various divisions and departments and remained focused on the task at hand.

Meanwhile in the cabin, Wolfe and his fellow Flight Attendants prepared to provide Delta's hallmark warmth and hospitality to their passengers.

"Just show as much empathy as possible," he said. "These people have been through a world of hurt. I think our faces and our care and compassion will just bring Delta's love to everyone on board. That's what's most important."

As Pilots and Flight Attendants alike prepared for their mission, they were also reflective of the moment they would soon be a part of.

"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of happy people on this airplane. I can only imagine what they're thinking," Dunham said. "The opportunity to take them from there to here, changes their lives 4,000 miles at a time."

"We want to make them feel at home and comfortable," Wolfe said. "We're bringing them to their new home, and hopefully they'll remember Delta for that."

6:15 p.m. ET Aug. 24: 'We love to help out' - Clean Teams prep planes for Afghanistan evacuees

Clean Teams prep planes for Afghanistan evacuees

Countless Delta people have stepped up in support of the airline’s response to the activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, and that includes a team of people that goes unseen, especially if they do their job right — the Delta Global Cleanliness Team.

Members of that team are working tirelessly in support of Delta’s CRAF flights out of a sense of duty to the passengers and pride in their work. “This is what we would do anyway,” said Global Clean Team member Latasah Polk. “We have to do this for these families.”

Tuesday afternoon, a Boeing 767-300ER touched down at Dulles International Airport. Moments after the passengers — evacuees from Afghanistan — deplane, the Clean Team is on board.

Their methodical process includes treating the entire cabin with an electrostatic spray, picking up trash, collecting blankets and pillows, a good vacuum and a thorough wipe down of every surface.

While the Clean Team is in the lead, they’re supported by Delta partner Unifi and pretty much anybody nearby wearing a reflective Delta vest — including ramp agents and corporate staff.

“Here, let me get that for you,” is repeated by everybody pitching in to help out. It’s a team effort that pays off.

“Done!” said Global Clean Team leader Harry Martinez as he descended the boarding stairs from the 767-300ER. “Thirty minutes early, too!”

The sense of accomplishment for the team is fueled by that desire to take what they do best, and make it possible for people who need it most. In this case, that’s a spotless cabin.

“It feels awesome,” said Chavon Wooten. “We love to help out.”

10 a.m. ET Aug. 24: Whether in the operation or behind the scenes, Delta people come together to help Afghanistan evacuees

(Download the video here.)

Delta Airport Customer Service Field Director Elizabeth Dickinson has a saying on her team: “This is how we do it.” This week, it’s served as a rallying cry around their commitment to help incoming evacuees from Afghanistan to the U.S.

A cadre of Delta people from across the country, representing every corner of the operation, converged on Dulles International Airport Monday to do just that in response to the federal government’s activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. It’s a massive undertaking that requires hard work from hundreds of dedicated people at Delta stations in the U.S. and Europe.

Delta employees prepare to help evacuees from Afghanistan at Dulles International Airport.

More than 260 people evacuated from Afghanistan were on board the Delta A330-300 jet that landed Monday afternoon at Dulles. When the wheels touched down, it marked the end of an eight-hour flight, the latest leg of a days-long journey.

Civil Reserve Air Fleet

Some American citizens were among those on board. Many were very young. 

“I was just surprised with how many little children were on board,” said Delta TechOps Mechanic Troy Dobler.

Dobler and fellow mechanic Richard Gill were on board the relief flight, two members of the Delta crew supporting the mission. After a grueling marathon of travel, they climbed the boarding stairs to the A330-300 again late Monday, bound back to Europe and the Middle East for a repeat mission.

“Any time you can help people when they’re in a really bad situation, it makes you feel good,” Gill said.

Passengers exit a CRAF flight at Dulles International Airport

Delta has committed four jets — two A330-300s, an A350-900 and a B767-300ER — and has already scheduled 25 flights for 6,700 passengers through Aug. 31 in support of the CRAF. Each requires a full crew of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and security staff. On the ground, hundreds of Delta people are working to support the effort in an incredible display of logistical prowess.

Delta has called in some of its best operational managers and support teams, all of them coming together behind a common goal.

“We’re a Delta family, so whenever something like this happens, we’re always looking to support each other,” said Faiz Syed, Dulles Station Manager.

At Dulles, ramp agents are working hardsupporting the day’s regularly scheduled flights, and additional CRAF flights.

After each plane is deplaned, Delta’s Global Cleanliness team makes sure the entire cabin is thoroughly cleaned and ready to welcome the next flight of evacuees.

Delta’s Corporate Security team is focused on making sure each flight operates safely and securely, in spite of the challenging circumstances.

“It’s all about just focusing on one thing at a time and making sure you’re doing everything safely,” Syed said.

Though ever-focused on the task at hand, the meaning of the mission is on the mind of every Delta employee.

“To be able to get them to a safe place and help them start a new life is pretty impactful,” Syed said.

As the A330-300 departed, the team on the ground took a few moments to debrief on a successful turn and take a break. The next flight, one of Delta’s A350-900s, would arrive in less than an hour.

Time to do it again.

8 p.m. ET Aug. 23: Delta people prepare for evacuees from Afghanistan

Delta employees gather supplies for incoming evacuees from Afghanistan.

Delta’s finest are converging on Dulles International Airport as the first waves of evacuees from Afghanistan begin to arrive on Delta jets.

The teams continued work Monday that began over the weekend, continuing to prepare for the arrival of thousands of passengers.

After getting reports from inbound flights that passengers had several basic needs, three Delta people decided to act.

Kendall Antoine, Quentin Harris and George Taylor piled into a Delta van and made a bee line for a local store to pick up diapers, formula, baby snacks and personal hygiene products. All in addition to the catering and supplies already planned for the flights.

Delta employees gather supplies for incoming evacuees from Afghanistan.

“This is what we do,” Harris said. “We serve.”

Delta employees gather supplies for incoming evacuees from Afghanistan.
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