Asia-Pacific, North Korea, World

The World’s Only 1-Star Airline: North Korea’s Air Koryo

There is nothing better than airline service. Delays, plane food, and other mild annoyances tend to be a staple of every air travel experience. One airline, in particular, is considered the worst of the worst. Rated a single star on several sources, Air Koryo is one of the only carriers that take passengers to the despotic country of North Korea. Let’s take a tour of Air Koryo and see why travelers should beware.

Better Buckle Up

For a country as economically rich as North Korea, one could expect the best aviation has to offer. That has not been the case for Air Koryo.

Many of the established air cruisers in supply have seen plenty of time in the air, perhaps decades considering many of them were made during the Soviet-era. The Ilyushin Il-62 is one of the many aging passenger planes on Air Koryo’s fleet, which was built in Russia in a former Soviet Kozan factory.

These types of jets loudly roar in dated turbines and almost seem like traveling back in time. This is made more authentic since many of the minor renovations (LCD screens) leave much of the original craft’s presentation intact. Although plenty of air aficionados would enjoy riding such relics, others may find their performance to be frightening. Not to worry, perhaps the real value of the flight comes from what the adventure holds inside, and not outside the dingy can with wings.

Why Air Koryo is a No-Go

Just a few memorable trips on these rides may feel a bit like a brainwash of communist proportions. Following North Korea’s control of the media, the airliner reminds passengers that photography is prohibited. This did not stop revolutionary Instagrammers or bloggers to snap dozens of pictures of what goes down upon entering the plane.

With flying machines past their prime, many of them come with incredibly dated interiors. Some of the rusty ventilation on these Soviet-Era aircrafts seem to also leak condensation onto the seats. Possibly one of the best features to come from these antique aviation vehicles is how seats can move all the way forward. Seat in your way? Just kick back and bend it out.

Far as entertainment goes, there’s a lot to do. Reading the latest propaganda bundled newspaper from the country, watching state-approved cartoons or shows are all of these options. If one has yet to feel the constant pride of North Korea, every attendant wore the bright colors of the land’s flag.

Mystery Meat

For a country ripe with cover-ups and government controlled media, a weird burger is perhaps the best personification. Air Koryo caters travelers with this single sandwich that includes a juice refreshment and is supported by a paper doily. As fancy as it may sound, the ingredients are thin.

The famous #AirKoryo burger #DPRK #NorthKorea #Korea #Pyongyang

A post shared by bonjgonzales (@bonjgonzales) on

Each burger is served cold, containing a slice of processed cheese, some shredded cabbage and a few dabs of a sweet brown sauce. The meat in question has ranged from bland to disgusting and is not made better by the added fluff. The real question is what cow was slaughtered to make that meager plane meal? Answer: No one really knows.

While one frequenter claims it to be chicken, Air Koryo themselves could not even confirm what type of meat it is. Vegetarians may find that there is an alternative to this infamous dish. Altering the menu allows a vegan passenger to enjoy the same roll without the strange substance, and maybe some more tomatoes and lettuce for good measure. Air cuisine at its finest.

How Bad is Air Koryo Now?

Some of these concerning details and services have made this airline infamous, but changes have been made. Attendants’ uniforms have now been color swapped into black for a more modern look. Even the food has improved, providing a much more appropriate palette that actually looks appetizing.

Moreover, despite being considered the worst rated airline four times in a row, there are dozens of tourists that continue to travel with Air Koryo just for many of its bizarre quirks. So if someone is looking to remember eating a bland meal, ride a jet that is almost as old as them, and see what a Communist citizen likely watches on TV all day, then look no further than Air Koryo.

About Jarek Martinez

Born in Chicago, Illinois, a journalism major with plenty of hope for his future and career. Reporting and photography are improving every day, but writing is the passion. The drive. Avid movie watcher and media guy. Also minoring in legal studies and applying for paralegal certification. A big dog person as well.

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