Not long after Air Koryo has returned to flying internationally with flights to China, the airline has also resumed services to Russia.
Using a Tupolev Tu-204, registered as P-632, the carrier operated flight JS271 from Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (FNJ), North Korea, to Vladivostok International Airport (VVO), Russia, on August 25, 2023.
According to reports by the Russian outlet RIA, no passengers were onboard the flight to VVO. Meanwhile, on the return journey, “several groups of passengers approached the [check-in] counter”.
On the same day, the airline operated the return flight JS272 from VVO to FNJ, landing at the North Korean capital at around 2:20 PM local time (UTC +9).
Previously, on August 22, 2023, another Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204, registered as P-633, landed at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), China. The same aircraft flew once again to PEK on August 24, 2023, returning to FNJ the same day, according to flightradar24.com data.
These two international flights mark the first time that the airline’s aircraft crossed the North Korean border since March 2020.
“After announcing the decision to manage COVID-19 with measures against Class-B infectious diseases, China, on January 8, 2023, resumed handling Chinese and foreign airlines’ applications to resume international passenger flights,” Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China, said during his daily press conference on August 21, 2023. “In the process of shifting to the summer-autumn schedules of 2023, China approved in accordance with relevant procedures the DPRK’s Air Koryo’s application for scheduled Pyongyang-Beijing-Pyongyang flights,” Wenbin continued.
Heavily sanctioned by the Western world, North Korea does not have any Western-made aircraft, with all 15 of Air Koryo’s aircraft being made in Russia. On average, its aircraft are 33.2 years old, according to ch-aviation.com data.
Chinese aircraft like the COMAC C919 or the ARJ21 would be impossible for North Korea to import due to the wide usage of Western-made parts, including engines. However, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) has been developing domestically built aircraft such as the Sukhoi Superjet New or the MC-21.