THE profits of some airlines operating from Hong Kong to Europe have been heavily hit by a directive from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which is urging air carriers to discontinue flights over Afghanistan because of an escalation inaerial warfare in the region. Carriers including Cathay Pacific and British Airways, which would normally schedule flights over Afghanistan on routes to Britain have been forced to take longer and more roundabout routes. This, coupled with exceptionally strong seasonal head winds, has been forcing air carriers to dump cargo payloads to take on additional fuel. Another option for the airlines has been to make technical stop-overs en route for aircraft to refuel. Last week, one BA flight took 151/2 hours to reach London from Hong Kong and just 111/4 hours to return, because of exceptional winds. The Afghan problem emerged fully about four weeks ago and shows no signs of abating. Cathay Pacific spokesman Phil Burfurd said this has had a substantial effect on the airline's profit on the routes. British Airways estimated its profit on its normally lucrative London route had been cut by around 15 per cent. Cathay has been making regular stops in Rome and Paris when faced with exceptional winds on its London services which have had to loop Afghanistan. It is now hastily applying for permission to fly additional services over southern Russia as a more viable alternative. BA opted for Frankfurt on one recent flight because its plane could not have otherwise made it.