Pope Boards Charter Flight to Korea

Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane on his way to Korea, at Romes Fiumicino International Airport on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis Pope Francis waves as he boards a plane on his way to Korea, at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport on Wednesday. /AP-Newsis

Pope Francis arrives in Seoul on Thursday morning after leaving Rome on a chartered Alitalia plane on Wednesday.

The pope arrives at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province at around 10:30 a.m. and will stay until Monday. It will be the first papal visit to Korea since John Paul II came here in 1989.

Normally, heads of state use private planes on overseas trips, but Francis will travel back to Italy by Korean Air after wrapping up his 100-hour stay in Korea on Monday afternoon.

If the planes that have carried the pope and his entourage should return empty, the airlines would incur a huge loss, so both Alitalia and Korean Air will carry ordinary passengers on their return flights.

Some devout travelers have apparently called for reservations on the plane that carried the pope, mostly Catholics bound for a pilgrimage to Italy.

This is Alitalia's first direct flight from Rome to Seoul in years. It used to operate nonstop services between Rome and Gimpo in the 1990s but stopped them fairly soon.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 14, 2014 09:32 KST