North Korea and Russia are to be connected by air again for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to flights.
Air Koryo, North Korea’s national carrier, will run four flights this month between Pyongyang and Vladivostok, an official for the southeast Russian airport has confirmed to CNN.
There will be one return flight a day on the last Friday and Monday of August, leaving Vladivostok Internation (VVO) at quarter to nine and getting flyers into Pyongyang (FNJ) at quarter past eleven in the morning. The returns come back just after lunchtime, at quarter past one, and lands in Russia (which is an hour ahead of North Korea) just before 2pm.
CNN notes that the two cities are separated by just 680 km (423 miles). That’s the distance between Paris and Toulouse.
1. Covid-19 barricade and Ukraine sanctions
North Korea’s coronavirus barricade has been one of the longest and strictest in the world, with the peninsular nation essentially “sealed off” during the coronavirus pandemic. Russia meanwhile closed its airspace in February 2022 to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in response to Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector.
The tight North Korean Covid restrictions were finally shown to be easing off last month, when Chinese and Russian officials attended “Victory Day” commemorations and a group of taekwondo athletes were permitted to attend a tournament in Kazakhstan.
2. Summer and autumn flights
The air route between Russia and North Korea has been approved “during the summer and autumn flight season,” reports Germany’s DW, though flyers’ confidence may not be at its highest after the supposed resumption of Korea’s commercial flights to China was cancelled with no explanation on Monday 21 August.
Flyers may still be grateful however not to be flying on Aeroflot, which is undergoing frightening technical difficulties due to the way sanctions prevent access to maintenance and spare parts from airline manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.
Would-be flyers do have an option other than the one-hour flight: a connection by rail, though this may not be very appealing. A Russian diplomatic family highlighted not just how tight the restrictions were, but how bad the rail connection was in February 2021 by taking a 32-hour trip on the slow, old rail line, then a bus, then walking the last kilometer with their luggage in a “handcart”.