Lifestyle & Belief

World's worst airline, Air Koryo of North Korea, launches online booking service


Travellers disembark from an Air Koryo Topolev 504 aircraft upon arrival at Pyongyang airport on April 12, 2012.



The world's worst airline, North Korea's Air Koryo, has opened an online booking service.

The carrier — the only airline to have the one-star Skytrax rating — is banned from flying in European airspace, and flies only a handful of flights each week to neighboring China and Russia.

However, Air Koryo has been making a significant effort to rebuild its brand in recent years, NK News reported.

Where once the fleet consisted solely of vintage Soviet-era aircraft, it  had recently purchased two ultra-modern TU-204 aircraft and renovated Pyongyang’s Sunan airport.

The website, coming after the launch in 2009 of an "official" Air Koryo Facebook page, promises "easier, quicker, reliable booking and ticketing services," The London Telegraph reported.

However, according to the Telegraph:

Early reports seems to suggest the website is unlikely to help the North Korean flag carrier shake its one-star rating... Users have already reported slow response speeds, with some searches not offering any availability for flights, while others result in an error message appearing on the screen.

In another hitch, the International Business Times noted that Air Koryo did not accept credit cards, instead requiring passengers to arrange an international wire transfer" via its website.

North Korea expert Leonid Petrov was quoted on North Korea-watching website NK News as saying: "Clearly, this website is created with the purpose to impress the people who have never thought of traveling to Pyongyang".

Reuters reported that the carrier was offering flights to Beijing and Shenyang in China, and Vladivostok in Russia.

A business class flight to Beijing was listed online at $374 in a country where annual gross domestic product per capita is estimated at $1,800.

There are 29 functioning airlines listed with a two-star Skytraxr rating, defined as representing "poor, inconsistent standards" — among them, Air Zimbabwe, Bulgaria Air and Ryanair.