Most of us have had the experience where airline service isn’t quite what we expected. To do our duty, we run to the internet for an airing of grievances, giving a less than stellar review for sub-par service quality. But what happens when the airline is consistently ranked the worst in the world and only travels to and from one of the most hellish places known to man?
Air Koryo is North Korea’s premiere airline, being owned by the state of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and subsequently by its insane boy dictator, Kim Jong Un.
It has consistently ranked as the only one-star experience by the online ranking authority SkyTrax, not only for its choice of planes, but its abysmal food quality and extraordinary amount of propaganda from what can laughably be described as in-flight entertainment.
If you’re on an Air Koryo route (likely to or from Pyonyang, North Korea), the experience is as follows:
- You board a plane made in the Soviet era (Either made by Ilyushin or Tupolev), some outfitted with some modern amenities such as LCD screens. Sometimes you need to sprint to the plane so you don’t get a shitty seat.
- A flight attendant dressed in the colors of the North Korean flag hands you a North Korean newspaper with lots of awesome pictures of the totally benevolent leader of the country, Kim Jong Un.
- After watching a safety video, you’re treated to non-stop propaganda via state-approved entertainment.
- If you’re in economy class (as you should be), you’re served a meal that makes a McDonald’s hamburger look like a prime cut of Kobe beef served by a Michelin-rated chef.
If you’re in business class and/or a member of the elite ruling class, the experience isn’t much better. You’re given a combo platter that looks like rice in murky water with a side of I give up:
Although videotaping and recording on the plane is strictly prohibited, it doesn’t stop there being dozens of recordings on one of Air Koryo’s 18 current planes, along with reviews that don’t look that bad, if I’m honest.
If you’re used to Spirit or Frontier Airlines, you’ll feel right at home.
There are a few bright sides to this crapcan airline. First, it’s almost never late and it doesn’t overbook, so that honeymoon to Pyonyang that you’ve been dreaming about is in safe hands. Also, they haven’t had an accident since 1983, but that is a bit like saying that an active volcano hasn’t erupted yet, so it’s a good idea to picnic at the summit.
The modernization of Air Koryo’s aging Soviet-era fleet is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, but at the very least it’s interesting to see how a country that isolates itself from the world to such an extreme degree can create a service that expands the state’s global footprint on a somewhat grand scale, although I don’t really think the Elon Musks of the world have anything to worry about.