North Korea’s state airline Air Koryo will reportedly continue offering a reduced Beijing-Pyongyang service on Thursdays for at least most of February, extending a service reduction beyond its originally planned January period.
With the exception of one flight on Thursday, February 15 – a day ahead of the late-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday– the airline will maintain the ongoing suspension of Thursday services between the two cities.
“In winter this is normal but for it to last into February is unusual,” said Simon Cockerell, General Manager at the Beijing-based Koryo Tours.
Air Koryo could not be reached for comment on Wednesday via either phone lines connecting to its Shanghai or Pyongyang ticket offices.
Another informed source said the airline was also currently operating no flights on the Pyongyang–Shenyang route and would not be doing so until at least 17 January, citing conversations with Air Koryo ticket staff.
While Air Koryo’s official schedule data shows the Pyongyang–Shenyang route as being active, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data tracked by the NK Pro Aviation Tracker shows no flights recorded on the route since December 27, 2017.
The lack of ADS-B data since late 2017 suggests the route is also currently suspended.
As a result, the developments mean Air Koryo may be flying as little as just four scheduled international round-trips per week at the moment: twice to Beijing and twice to Vladivostok.
“I’d say that it is just a result of reduced demand at the moment,” said Cockerell about the schedule.
“Air Koryo are subject to market forces after all and if fewer people are flying then limiting flights seems a normal thing to do in response.”
The schedule reductions come amid an ongoing winter schedule suspension by Air China, the only other airline to offer a regular service to North Korea.
Air China has not yet announced a firm start date for its spring 2018 service, according to online flight scheduling data, leaving access to the country by air in an exceptionally precarious position.
Air Koryo’s fortunes have suffered significantly this year amid the scaling back of numerous routes, UN sanctions that prohibit it from easily importing jet fuel, and unilateral sanctions designations from the U.S. and South Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News
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