China plans charter flights to North Korea
Ten Chinese travel agencies are planning charter flights between Chengdu and Pyongyang, says South Korean news agency Yonhap. The first flight, operated by North Korean air carrier Air Koryo, is scheduled for June 20, 2018.
Other routes could be discussed in the future, according to Reuters. “Now perhaps it’s Chengdu, afterwards could be Dalian, Guangzhou. If there’s a market we’ll fly, if not we won’t,” an anonymous airline official told the news agency. It seems unlikely, however, that enough passengers will travel those routes to make them profitable.
The elaboration of new charter flights is highly symbolic, as North Korea starts opening to the world after announcing the abandonment of its nuclear program.
This project comes after Kim Jong-un visit to China in late March 2018. It was at the time the first state visit of the North Korean leader since he came into power in 2011.
His personal aircraft “Chammae-1” (a Ilyushin-62 acquired in 1962) has since been spotted in Chinese airports, last time between May 7 and 8, 2018, in Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport (DLC).
At the same time, officials of the ICAO were visiting Pyongyang to discuss a charter route between Pyongyang and South Korea’s main airport, Incheon International Airport (ICN).
Most of Air Koryo’s planes are banned from the European Union since 2006 due to safety issues. Its fleet is composed of Soviet-era airliners that the company struggle to maintain, due to international sanctions on North Korea. Skytrax has long rated Air Koryo with only one star, and eventually stopped evaluating it.