New Delhi, May 15, 2018: Following warming relations between North and South Korea, Pyongyang has rolled out a series of practical reconciliation measures, including opening a new air route to South Korea over the Pyongyang Flight Information Region (FIR).
North Korea’s General Administration of Civil Aviation tabled the request, which outlined the proposal for the establishment of a new Air Traffic Service (ATS) between Pyongyang and the Incheon FIR, to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in February.
A pair of ICAO officials had met with North Korean representatives in Pyongyang to discuss the request, as well as “navigational and safety matters.” Seoul’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport also has taken the request under review according to reports published in ainonline.com
The two countries have not maintained an established flight route between them since the armistice in 1953.
Reports estimate that South Korean airlines could save around 16 billion won ($14.83 million) in fuel annually for flights to Russia and the United States. Flights departing Incheon now must circumnavigate the Pyongyang FIR, which adds between 124 and 310 miles to their length. Similarly, most airlines avoid the Pyongyang FIR for safety reasons, especially following numerous unannounced missile tests in 2017.
Korean Air told AIN that its flight operations remain unchanged and it continues to observe developments.
Currently, only flag carrier Air Koryo flies regular service to North Korea, serving Beijing, Shenyang, and Vladivostok. Air China suspended flights to Pyongyang since November last year due to poor demand.
Until sanctions on North Korea lift and trade resumes with international partners, it appears highly unlikely Pyongyang will attract new operators into its only international airport. Critics also point to the impracticality of establishing flights between Seoul and Pyongyang, which lie only 121 miles apart.