Eight Asian, North US and Russian airlines have signalled their intent to launch up to 16 flights a day through North Korea's Pyongyang Flight Information Region (FIR), once it opens to international traffic on 23 April.

Following the successful conclusion of week long flight trials in early March, the Pyongyang authorities have endorsed an earlier agreement with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to open up the FIR to scheduled traffic. Aircraft using the new Route B467 transiting North Korean airspace will save up to 50min flight time between the USA and Asia in winter.

Accordingly, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines (SIA) have applied to operate through the FIR on a daily basis between Seoul and Vancouver, while Cathay Pacific wants to run a similar number of frequencies from Hong Kong on Vancouver and Anchorage routes.

United Airlines is seeking to operate daily through the FIR between Seoul and Chicago and San Francisco, while Delta Airlines wants to use it for its daily Portland-Seoul service. SIA stands to gain the most out of the new agreement, with onward flights of Hong Kong-San Francisco, Taipei-Los Angeles/Anchorage and Seoul-Anchorage.

Flight times between Seoul and the Russian Far East will also be shortened by up to 30min. Korean Air has asked to use the Pyongyang FIR for its twice weekly service from Seoul to Vladivostok, and competing Asiana Airlines for services from Seoul to Khabarovsk.

According to IATA, the recently modernised air traffic control centre at Pyongyang will initially be able to handle up to 100 flights a day, or 12/h, on the new route. Three flight levels will be available in each direction between 9,600m (31,500ft) and 13,600m.

Meanwhile, the Japanese authorities do not expect to open the planned new Route B332 extension from the Pyongyang FIR to point Miho in the Tokyo FIR until the end of the year. Japan is believed to want to widen the gap between the proposed north-south B332 and the Japan Air Self Defence Force's off limits "Area G".

Source: Flight International