Increased flights between Russia and North Korea may be on the cards, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Commercial passengers only have limited options for flying between the two countries at present. The only direct commercial air link between the two countries is a twice-weekly flight between Vladivostok and Pyongyang operated by Korea’s flagship carrier Air Koryo . Reports in Kommersant suggest these flights are mainly used by North Korean contruction workers.
Historically too, demand for passenger connections between the two nations has been low. It is necessary to go back to the 1980s to find Aeroflot flights to Pyongyang from both Moscow (SVO) and Khabarovsk (KHV). Air Koryo also used to fly a non-stop connection to Moscow twice a week. Thailand had a connection and China too, from Macau and Beijing to Pyongyang, but, in a sign of low demand, they have not resumed since the pandemic.
Yet, following a visit to North Korea last week by representatives of Rosaviatsia, Russia’s civil aviation agency, two more airlines have now been invited to state their readiness for further flights to Pyongyang: Aeroflot and Aurora, despite apparently low commercial demand. The real reason for upping the number of connections, according to the AviaPort thinktank, would be to facilitate new international alliances. There are fears that those closer ties will facilitate military supplies being funnelled from North Korea to Russia too.
“In the new foreign policy realities, Russia is forming new partnerships, the construction and development of which without direct flights from Moscow is not very comfortable,” AviaPort’s head, Oleg Panteleyev, head of the AviaPort aviation think tank, told Kommersant. “The main interest in such flights, from business and political circles, is in Moscow.”
“Not very comfortable” is one way to put it. Travel Tomorrow has already reported on the 32-hour overland journey taken by one Russian diplomat and his family, including old rail infrastructure, bus connections and even a portion of the trip by handcart.
No direct flight in sight?
Aeroflot subsidiary Aurora responded positively with a “theoretical readiness” to fly to North Korea. In reality, neither Russian carrier has a fleet with narrowbody aircraft capable of taking on the 3400-nautical-mile (6297 km) direct flight between Moscow and Pyongyang.
Since there is unlikely to be enough demand to warrant laying on widebody craft, the expectation by industry insiders is that flights would not be direct but would instead stop to connect in Vladivostok.