PHOTO: Looking into North Korea from the East Coast of South Korea. (photo via Flickr/Jo)
The national airline of North Korea, Air Koryo, has announced a new route from Dandong, China, to Pyongyang International Airport.
The new route brings Air Koryo’s regularly scheduled international destinations to five.
According to The Associated Press, the first flight on the route took place Tuesday as a 73-seat Antonov AN148 aircraft transporting around 50 Chinese tourists landed safely at Pyongyang International Airport.
The Air Koryo route from Dandong to Pyongyang takes less than an hour to complete and is currently scheduled to operate twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. The national airline also boasts routes to Beijing, Shenyang and Shanghai, China, as well as Vladivostok, Russia.
While Air Koryo used to fly additional routes to Kuwait and Malaysia, international sanctions against the country have forced the carrier to abandon those destinations. North Korea is also losing air traffic from Air China, as the carrier is expected to end its routes to Pyongyang within the next two months.
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Air China officials have not announced why the routes will be eliminated, but the international pressure on North Korea and the underuse of the route were likely two of the main reasons behind the decision.
Air China’s decision to stop flights to Pyongyang comes less than a year after North Korea began allowing Chinese tourists to visit passport-free as part of a half-day tour. The decision was made to bring in more income following continued international sanctions.