• North Korea's national carrier, Air Koryo, was set to resume commercial flights, but it was unexpectedly canceled, leaving many disappointed.
  • The cancelation of the flight raised confusion among all relevant parties, as Air Koryo provided no explanation for the last-minute decision.
  • In a surprising twist, Air Koryo has now scheduled two nonstop flights between Vladivostok and Pyongyang instead.

Having been closed off from the rest of the world since early 2020 after shutting its borders in response to the global pandemic, North Korea's national carrier was initially scheduled to take off on its first commercial revenue flight today. But as many people awaited its arrival in Beijing, they were met with disappointment upon realizing it was canceled.

The anticipated international return of Air Koryo

After three years of pandemic-induced isolation and rising doubts over the detrimental state of its aviation infrastructure and the status of flag carrier Air Koryo, there were signs that North Korea was becoming more flexible on border controls. Last month, Chinese and Russian government officials landed at Pyongyang International Airport, marking the airport's first international arrival in over three years.

Then last weekend, the country allowed a delegation of local athletes to attend a competition in Kazakhstan, whereby they crossed the land border into China before going to Beijing and flying to Central Asia. All these encouraging signs were coupled with China's foreign ministry approving the restart of commercial flight services between Pyongyang and Beijing - which was scheduled to be operated by Air Koryo.

Air Koryo Tupolev Tu-204 at the gate at Pyongyang International Airport
Photo: terimma | Shutterstock

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An unexpected cancelation

And the anticipated first commercial flight of Air Koryo after three years was expected to happen today when flight JS151 from Pyongyang Airport would depart at around 08:15. The flight was due to arrive at Beijing's Capital International Airport at around 09:50. But two hours later, many people still found themselves waiting around the airport's arrival area to see some of the country's first international travelers in years.

As the wait ensued, the signboard in the airport's terminal refreshed to show a rather disappointing reflection, as JS151 was marked as canceled. According to the customer service representatives at Beijing Capital, Air Koryo had not provided any reason for the sudden and relatively last-minute cancelation. China's foreign ministry had no answers either, with a spokesperson only further reiterating that the flight services were already approved.

Confusion from all sides

The situation was further mystified when those waiting went to have a look at Air Koryo's office in Beijing Capital for answers. Except it was revealed fully locked doors, lights switched off, and no working staff. One would assume that considering international flights were restarting today, the office would at least house the station manager and some airline personnel - but there was none.

upolev Tu-204-300 P-632 of Air Koryo airlines landing at Sheremetyevo international airport.
Photo: Fasttailwind | Shutterstock

A significant lack of staff within the closed office seems as though it was pre-forecasted internally that JS151 would be canceled. Without many answers to go on as to why the flight was canceled, Seoul's Unification Ministry - which handles relations with North Korea, was turned to for a possible lead. Unfortunately, all the ministry could provide was the same as everyone else - no one knew what was happening.

Switching from China to Russia

While the Chinese and South Korean sides remain confused about today's lack of expected events, the Russian side might have turned the tables. Instead of conducting its first commercial flight from Pyongyang to Beijing today, Air Koryo is now scheduled to operate two nonstop flight services between Vladivostok International Airport and Pyongyang.

The first flight will happen this Friday, August 25th, while the second flight will occur next Monday, August 28th. Both flights will utilize the airline's Tupolev Tu-204, and tickets are already readily listed on its website. In an email to NK News, a spokesperson for Vladivostok Airport highlighted:

"The flights will indeed happen. Air Koryo flights are scheduled for the first time since the pandemic, but we are unaware if the airline will conduct return flights or if regular flights between the two countries will be resumed."

As the suspense builds up for this Friday's flight, doubts have begun to surface on whether or not another unforeseen cancelation would occur from Air Koryo as the flag carrier plays an unknowing game.

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What do you think could be the reason for the sudden cancelation, and what are your thoughts on Friday's flight? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Ruetir, NK News

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    Beijing's Capital Airport is the home port of Air China. Photo: Getty Images
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