North Korea airline flies first international flight since Covid

Air Koryo plane
Image caption,The first Air Koryo flight to Beijing since 2020 has taken place

By Nicholas Yong

BBC News, Singapore

North Korea’s flagship carrier has flown its first international flight since the pandemic.

Air Koryo’s JS151 left Pyongyang Tuesday morning and landed at Beijing Capital Airport at 09:16 local time (01:16 GMT), data from real-time flight tracking service Flightradar24 showed.

It is unclear who was on board or how many passengers JS151 was carrying.

Travel agency Koryo Tours said the Pyongyang-Beijing route was reopened as a means for North Koreans to get home.

According to Flightradar24, flight JS151 was flown on a Tupolev Tu-204 aircraft, which can carry up to 210 passengers.

It is unclear how many passengers were on board the return flight, JS152, scheduled to depart for Pyongyang from the Chinese capital at 13:05.

But Kyodo News reported that Air Koryo’s check-in counter at Beijing airport was packed with passengers wearing North Korean flag pins on their chests and pushing trolleys full of baggage.

On Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry said it had approved the resumption of Air Koryo flights to Beijing, more than three and a half years after they were halted due to Covid border closures.

Pyongyang has only recently resumed limited international passenger travel.

Last week, a group of North Korean athletes crossed the border into China, on their way to the Taekwondo world championships in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Russian and Chinese delegations were also in the North Korean capital in July to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, the first known foreign groups to be invited to the country since 2020.

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