This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
South Korea and North Korea — two countries still technically at war — are set to compete together under the same flag at this year’s Olympics. As part of the coordination for this historical partnership, all kinds of norms are being broken. The latest of these: flights between the Koreas have resumed for the first time since 1994.
A trip was just completed by an Asiana Airbus A321-200 (registration HL8060) carrying South Korean skiers to North Korea. The aircraft returned with the same skiers, plus 32 North Koreans. This delegation includes 10 North Korean athletes who’ve been invited to participate in the 2018 Olympics — six skiers, two figure skaters and two short-track speed skaters.
According to Aviation24, this is the “first time that an aircraft registered in South Korea has visited North Korea along the East Sea route.”
As far as we can tell from the limited FlightRadar24 data (due to the absence of ADS-B receivers in North Korea), other chartered flights have flown:
- Seoul, South Korea (ICN) to Yangyang, South Korea (YNY)
- Yangyang, South Korea (YNY) to Wonsan, North Korea (WOS)
- Wonsan, North Korea (WOS) to Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
- Seoul, South Korea (ICN) to Wonsan, North Korea (WOS)
- Wonsan, North Korea (WOS) to Yangyang, South Korea (YNY)
- Yangyang, South Korea (YNY) to Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
Between the lack of ADS-B coverage in North Korea and the limited coverage in the mountainous Yangyang area, some of these flights show up as mere blips on the radar:
Direct flights between these airports would normally cover just 716 miles. However, these flights took the (very) long route over the Sea of Japan — avoiding the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the heavy fortification on both sides.
Before the chartered flights could depart, Asiana needed to get approval from the United States to avoid sanctions. According to press following this trip, US officials gave a last-minute approval. A South Korean foreign ministry official told the Yonhap news agency that consent was granted on Wednesday, January 31:
The government has made smooth progress with the US Department of the Treasury on the process of granting exceptions to US sanctions to prevent Korean companies from being affected by US sanctions. The government is in close consultation with the United States on matters related to Pyongyang’s participation in the Olympics, with the view that the PyeongChang Olympic Games will be held successfully in accordance with the framework of sanctions against North Korea.
And yes, the historic flights had boarding passes — which hopefully the athletes kept:
No word on whether the flights will credit to Asiana’s “Asiana Club” mileage program. If so, hopefully the athletes and the Olympic delegation will be able to appeal for actual flight mileage rather than the direct flight miles.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards