The world's busiest passenger air route is between two Korean cities but this weekend a new Korean city checked-in for a record as point of origin with an exceptionally busy route, Pyongyang-Singapore.
With the North Korea-United States summit just two days ahead, an exodus of flights from Pyongyang to Singapore was observed by those who were observing the Chinese airspace this weekend. A total of four flights flew from Pyongyang Sunan Airport (FNJ) to Singapore Changi (SIN), one of the world's busiest airports.
Currently the world's busiest air passenger route is between the secondary airport of the South Korean capital Gimpo Airport and Korea's honeymoon and holiday destination Jeju Island with over 11 million passengers (that's an over 30,000 passenger per day in average) taking this route. When in May I was flying to Seoul from Jeju City on a Sunday evening, a dozen of flights were leaving Jeju for Seoul just 5 minutes apart (below is a map showing the Seoul bound flights on a typical Sunday evening).
This weekend however an other airline route became exceptionally busy. A total of four flights left Pyongyang for Singapore carrying the members of the DPRK delegation and cargo deemed necessary to be airlifted from the North Korean capital.
The first aircraft was detected on Saturday. Air China flight CA60 was operated by a European built Airbus A330-200 aircraft (registration number: B-6130). The flight was rather long, the 4737 km long journey took 10 hours 18 minutes - a distance that should be covered in about 6 hours - as it used Chinese airspace as long as possible. Before her special mission the aircraft operated Air China's regular Melbourne-Beijing flight, and its seating capacity is 237 passengers.
Another Air China aircraft left Pyongyang early Sunday morning. The Boeing 747-400 (registration no.: B-2447) was seen in Pyongyang on Friday as Air China's regular CA121/122 Beijing-Pyongyang-Beijing service, then after flying back to Pyongyang it appeared on radar as CA61 from Pyongyang to Singapore. The American built jumbo jet can carry 344 passengers and covered the route in 6 hours and 4 minutes. Based on the photos released on Sunday afternoon Marshal Kim Jong Un was also on this flight.
The third aircraft that left Pyongyang was the Soviet built Ilyushin IL76MD cargo aircraft (registration no.: P-914) built in 1990.
The last aircraft was Air Koryo's 39-year-old Ilyushin Il-62M (registration no.: P-885) the aircraft type that once was the Soviet block's primary long-haul aircraft. Air Koryo also used it for her scheduled flights to Europe (Moscow, Berlin, Sofia) before the fall of the state-socialist regimes in East Europe and was a frequent visitor at Beijing Capital Airport before the new Tupolev 204s were introduced in 2007 and 2010. The aircraft's seating capacity is 190. Contrary the claim of other sources this is not the VIP aircraft of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Government which I also spotted at Seoul Incheon Airport in the snowy evening of February 11 (see photo below).
During the summer timetable both Air Koryo and Air China offers air-link between the North Korean and Chinese capitals. Air Koryo flights are operated on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; while Air China flies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Air Koryo also flies to Shenyang (three times a week), Shanghai (twice weekly), and Vladivostok (twic a week) during the summer period.
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