Air China Cancels Flights To North Korea

Yesterday Air China operated their last flight from Beijing to Pyongyang in North Korea, which was their only route to North Korea. Air China claims that this cancelation is due to a lack of demand.

Air China’s flight to North Korea used to be seasonal, though as of this past year they converted it to year-round, with two weekly flights during the low season. So it’s interesting that they’re suddenly canceling the route on very short notice, especially after making the decision to operate the flight year-round.

As of now the service is canceled permanently, and Air China is no longer accepting reservations to Pyongyang. This is true even for travel in summer, even though they’ve operated the route every summer since 2008. Air China is the only foreign airline that flew to North Korea.

This means the only remaining airline to still operate flights to & from North Korea is Skytrax 6-Star airline Air Koryo. The airline operates a fleet of Antonov, Ilyushin, and Tupolev aircraft. Air Koryo operates scheduled passenger flights to Beijing, Dandong, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Vladivostok.

Ultimately we don’t know whether this route cancelation was a political move on China’s part, given the mounting political tension involving North Korea, or if this was truly a business decision. It sure seems to me like the former may be the case, given how suddenly this cancelation came.

I’d say this should help Air Koryo’s load factors, except it’s my understanding that they already have close to 100% load factors on most flights. Rumor has it that Air Koryo has a tendency to fly locals back and forth on their flights to make the flights seem full, and like the airline is successful. Worst of all, they don’t even earn miles. 😉

Do you think Air China’s North Korea route cancelation was political or financial?

(Tip of the hat to @airlineroute)

Comments

  1. We can only stipulate. Let’s not carried away. It is possible that it was business decision, could be that they are preemptively removing Chinese staff in case of war where most civilians will die in that region. It is possible that Chinese government further pressuring the little fat kid with isolation. Could be due to Trump or could have absolutely nothing with Trump. My worthless two cents.

  2. So I’m guessing the Chinese VIP visit didn’t work out very well, then.. still, you’ll find more smiling attendants working Air Koryo than mainland US carriers!

  3. Lucky let’s keep politics out of this blog. I know most hypocrites on this blog won’t call you out on it, but as you know I have a lot to say about trump and his lemmings.

  4. I’ve flown on Air Koryo on PEK-FNJ route and the passengers tend to be either tourists (lots of Chinese tourists go to DPRK compared to westerners), foreign diplomats, expats working for foreign companies (sat next to an Egyptian national who worked in telecom in DPRK) or North Korean elite (on the return there was a team of North Korean soccer players on the flight.) Both segments I flew on were full. This was back in the summer though before the US banned US citizens from going as tourists so things may have changed.

  5. Didn’t Trump sign an order yesterday to declare NK an axis of evil country again or whatever it’s called? The timing seems like more than coincidence.

  6. @Jim:

    Trump named North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. So there is some potentially funny timing on this. Depending on which (read: nearly all) foreign policy analysts you listen to, Trump’s visit to Asia wasn’t nearly as successful as Trump claims it was, if at all. But China isn’t foolish; they know this administration seems to enjoy flattery and lavishes rewards upon sycophants. I think this could very well be a temporary play to impress the current administration through a facade of cooperation. The end goal being to elicit conditions favorable to China from the US, especially when it comes to activities, say, in the South China Sea.

  7. To Debit: “Trump and his lemmings”? People who don’t want to read Trump bashing on a travel blog are hypocrites? How exactly is this furthering your desire to keep politics out of this blog?

  8. @attila when Debit comments most of the time I don’t even read it as it’s always something useless (most of the times)

    But Ben I do find this sudden stop interesting. Are you sure it was not mentioned earlier that yesterday/today would be the last flight? What are they doing about passengers that had future bookings? Even though load factors are low I’m sure they had a decent amount of future bookings still.

  9. You could technically search for Aeroplan rewards to Pyongyang which I’m guessing were (hypothetically) on Air China. I wonder if anyone was ever successful in snagging one of those seats with miles? 🙂

  10. Political.
    Since when a Chinese carrier cares about loads? They are as bureaucratic and impractical as they get.
    Orange hair was there and he got a big Boeing order from Air China.

  11. It’s definitely political. Because by comparison Air China still services HAV via YUL on the 787-9 once a week, as a political gesture, even though it’s not making money. They could just reduce it to once a week as well, but cancelled it altogether.

  12. Clearly political and financial at the same time. The redesignation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism means that Air China would have had to give up all US flights if it wanted to keep flying to the US and NOT have their planes impounded when they arrived. Flights to North Korea were likely never as profitable as US flights.

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