North Korea nuclear crisis

Air China suspends flights between Beijing, Pyongyang

Airline cites poor demand, with halt to services coming amid strained relations between the two nations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 9:17pm

Air China has indefinitely suspended flights between Beijing and Pyongyang, citing poor demand as North Korea faces growing sanctions from the United States over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

An official in the company’s Beijing-based press office, who did not give his full name, said on Wednesday that flights were suspended because “business was not good”. He declined to comment on when flights might resume.

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The suspension by China’s national flag carrier comes soon after a visit by a senior Chinese envoy to the city and also coincides with a US decision to put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Air China flights to Pyongyang, which have traditionally operated on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, began in 2008, but have frequently been cancelled because of unspecified problems, state media has said.

Air China halted flights seasonally for winter last year, but resumed them in March. So far it is not selling tickets for any 2018 flights, according to Routes Online.

One staff member in the company’s Pyongyang office who declined to give his name, told Reuters that Air China can resume the flights whenever there is enough demand and the office will operate normally even while there are no scheduled flights between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Air China’s Beijing-based press office declined to provide further comment.

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The company cancelled some flights in April, but later said that it would increase their number in May.

The United States has urged China to do more to press North Korea to stop what the United States sees as belligerent defiance of UN resolutions.

China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it hoped all parties could contribute to resolving the issue on the Korean peninsula peacefully. It also said that it was not aware of the Air China situation, adding that airlines made their decisions based on market needs.