Air Koryo Resumes International Flights After Three-Year Pause

DALLAS — On Tuesday, August 22, 2023, North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo (JS) operated the first international commercial flight out of the country since January 2020.

Flight JS151, operating the route from Pyongyang International (FNJ) to Beijing Capital (PEK) airports, landed in China at 09:16 local time after a pause of three years, as the Government of North Korea is progressively reopening national borders after COVID-19 cases have been reduced in their territory.

Wang Wenbin, Deputy Director of Information at the MFAC, said, “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. The airline undertakes the specific flights according to what has been approved by relevant Chinese authorities.”

Along with the recuperation of the crucial air link with China, the North Korean airline expects to resume flights from Pyongyang to Vladivostok (VVO) on Friday, August 25, therefore reestablishing its fixed route network with the two main political allies of the DPRK.

Air Koryo is only allowed to operate former Soviet aircraft, as new fleet incorporations are prohibited due to international sanctions. Photo: Malvin (FN2187) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Air Koryo’s Network and Fleet

Air Koryo is the national airline of North Korea. Given the extreme geopolitical situation and isolation of the territory, the civil aviation industry inside the country is almost nonexistent. This is, of course, reflected in JS’ route network and fleet.

It is difficult to estimate the correct data about the airline, as the censorship imposed by the national government limits vastly the amount of information that can actually exit the country. From what it is known, JS owns and operates two Antonov An-148 jets, registered as P-671 and P-672, as well as two Tupolev Tu-204s, registered as P-632 and P-633.

The latest; P-633, was the aircraft assigned to perform the historical reopening flight to Beijing and is configured in a two-class configuration, seating 12 passengers in Business Class and 210 in Economy Class.

Before the operational pause in 2020, JS maintained a tiny international route network of just three routes originating from Pyongyang Airport (FNJ). The destinations served by JS at that moment were Beijing-Capital (PEK), Shenyang-Taoxian (SHE), and Vladivostok Airport (VVO).

Featured image: Clay Gilliland (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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