Review: Is Air Koryo really 1 Star? Business Class Beijing to Pyongyang

Air Koryo Business Class Review

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Flight JS152 Beijing to Pyongyang

Recently, I went to North Korea to attend their first air show at Wonsan, the Wonsan Air Festival.

There are only two airlines fly to North Korea at the moment; Air China and Air Koryo.

Air Koryo operate majority of flights into and out of North Korea from Beijing, Shanyang, Shanghai and Vladivostok and seasonal flights to SE Asia and Kuwait.

The natural gateway to the DPRK, also known as "The Hermit Kingdom" is from China. Most traveler would start their journey from Beijing.

I am going to review my business class flight with Air Koryo to see whether their Skytrax 1 star rating really stands?

The 1 star definition from Skytrax website: "The 1-Star Airline rating represents a poor quality of Product delivered across the assessment sectors, combining with low and/or inconsistent standards of front-line Staff Service for the Onboard and home-base Airport."

Currently, they are the only 1 star airline on Skytrax. I want to review their flight to see are they really the worst airline in the world?

 

Check-in

Air Koryo use Terminal 2 at Beijing Capital. Check in open about 3 hours before flight.

The process is smooth and orderly.

There are separate Business Class and Economy Class check-in counters.

Air Koryo Check in Counter at Beijing T2
Air Koryo Check in Counter at Beijing T2
 

Business Class Lounge

Air Koryo Business Class customers are invited to use Air China Lounge in Terminal 2.

Most airlines operate out of Terminal 2 also use this common lounge (so as Korean Air which depart at the same time as Air Koryo!)

The lounge is spacious but in need of refurbishment. There are plenty of food and beverage on offer.

Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 

Chinese dishes with Rice or pasta.

Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2

Chinese steam dim sum (mainly buns)

Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing T2
 

At 11:30am, 30 minutes to our scheduled departure time, I arrived at our gate with our group members lined up and eagerly await to board.

Flight Number JS152

STD: 1200

Beijing to Pyongyang

Tupolev 204-100 series, Reg: P-633

air-koryo-business-class-09 air-koryo-business-class-10  

Anyoung hashimnikka (Korean word of Hello with respected tone)

Welcome Onboard

Air Koryo flight attendant stand at door 1L to welcome every guest onboard.

There are 3 rows of Business Class in a 2-2 configuration on this Tu-204-100

I am sitting at 3C, the last row aisle seat on the right side.

Air Koryo Business Class seat
Air Koryo Business Class seat
 
Air Koryo Business Class seat
Air Koryo Business Class seat
 
Air Koryo Business Class seat
Air Koryo Business Class seat
 

The legroom is estimated more than 40" seat pitch, more than most US and European short haul flights.

The seats are very comfortable with leather cover and a silk pillow.

Air Koryo Business Class seat
Air Koryo Business Class seat
 
Air Koryo Business Class seat
Air Koryo Business Class seat

Flight attendant came around with towel service, welcome drink (water)

Air Koryo in-flight service
Air Koryo in-flight service
  air-koryo-business-class-13 air-koryo-business-class-14

A quick peek of the full economy cabin.

Air Koryo Economy Class cabin
Air Koryo Economy Class cabin
 

Due to the usual traffic congestion at Beijing Capital International Airport, our takeoff time was delayed by 30 minutes. At 12:45pm, we finally airborne from Rwy 36R and heading towards NE direction towards Shanyang and Pyongyang.

air-koryo-business-class-18  

In-flight service started after we reach cruising altitude, which is about 8,000m above sea level.

Flight attendant took off their blue jacket and came around with fresh table linen.

(Air Koryo have a uniform change since 2014 with the advice from their great leader Kim Jong-Un, they've done away with the red jacket)

Air Koryo In-flight service
Air Koryo In-flight service
  air-koryo-business-class-22

A round of drinks was served with peanuts.

Air Koryo In-flight service
Air Koryo In-flight service
 

I tried out the Korean Grape Soda, which taste really sweet.

air-koryo-business-class-23

Then, a multi-course lunch is served on this 1.5 hours flight!

Air Koryo In-flight meal
Air Koryo In-flight meal

Korean sausages

air-koryo-business-class-25

Korean wraps with vegetable and meat.

air-koryo-business-class-27

Fried prawn and boiled salmon air-koryo-business-class-28

Fruits

air-koryo-business-class-26

When I thought that was the lunch, the flight attendant brought out another tray. It is Kimbap! (Korean Sushi)

Note how neatly it was arranged!

Air Koryo In-flight meal
Air Koryo In-flight meal

Flight attendant came around with beer bottle to top up our glasses.

air-koryo-business-class-31

air-koryo-business-class-30

The Korean grape soda I was drinking. air-koryo-business-class-32

Air Koryo coffee/tea cup.

air-koryo-business-class-36

In-flight entertainment include several fold down screen (like on the B737 and A320).

It was playing Korean Armed Force band singing with instrument playing.

Air Koryo In-flight Entertainment
Air Koryo In-flight Entertainment
 
Air Koryo In-flight Entertainment
Air Koryo In-flight Entertainment

Before we start our descend, the flight attendant passed the aisle for duty free sales.

None of the usual Western brand of perfume/liquor/cigarette is on the trolley. It is full of North Korean goods! (famous for handicraft and Ginseng)

Air Koryo in-flight duty free sales
Air Koryo in-flight duty free sales

Approaching Pyongyang Sunan Airport which is 50 km away from the city.

Another round of hot towel service was passed before landing.

air-koryo-business-class-37

With a smooth landing, I was even allowed to see the cockpit of Tu-204 after landing!

air-koryo-business-class-38

Summary

My flight with Air Koryo in Business Class was a great one. They're punctual, professional, polite and speak good english. For the 1.5 hours flight from Beijing, their offering put most US and European airlines to shame!

While they're certainly quite different to the mainstream airlines service offering. I'd say keep an open mind will get you a long enjoyable experience with them!

I won't make the judgement whether Air Koryo is 1 star or not. I will leave my pictures to show and you to judge it.

What do you think, I'd love to hear about your opinion!

Related Post:

Air Koryo Pyongyang Business Lounge and Pyongyang Airport new Terminal Review

Video

13 Comments on Review: Is Air Koryo really 1 Star? Business Class Beijing to Pyongyang

  1. from ypur review, my summary is,this Koryo Airlines isn’t real 1 star airlines. from the food,it was so neat and completed-service. and the flight-attendant were polite. great review! I want to come to North Korea hahaha

  2. Of course it is not 1*; that’s all politics and business. At least, most charter and low-cost carriers are way worse than JS. And Skytrax has not been extremely trustworthy recently, truth be told. The only time I personally have ever got sick from airline food was ex-HEL (Finnair catering; Skytrax 4*). They love labelling known cattle carriers as 5*, too.

  3. I flew Air Koryo at the beginning of the month in economy. The flight was comfortable and we had the same beverages. I did not try the mystery meat burger. To me the flight service seemed on par with any US carrier.

  4. I also flew Business Class on the same flight. Many European airlines have stopped providing a proper meal service but Air Koryo continues to do so and the quality and quantity has improved over the 10 years that I have been flying with the airline. The cabin crew are polite and attentive even though there are little things that could be done to improve the service. In flight Entertainment might be considered “unusual” but it gives an insight into the life and culture of the DPRK. I would give give the carrier 4 stars out of 5 because they cabin crew really try to please their passengers. ****

  5. Sam – excellent review and insight. The grandiose airport terminal just seems so surreal…. I have read a few other trip reports about Air Koryo (including the famous Koryo burger). Setting aside the political issues (concerning the country) and possible safety issues (concerning the planes and the country), I would say Air Koryo deserves more than one star. Happy to find your blog and look forward to reading more articles from you.

  6. Great review. Skytrax rating is pretty random, I am not sure many people take it seriously anyway. It is commercial service. I guess Air Koryo never paid them for any service. I would fly with Air Koryo in the future.

    Well done!

  7. Was the North Korean beer the only alcohol choice and the grape soda the only “non-water” choice?
    Also, there seems to be plenty of food, but how was the taste? Very, very interesting. I know there are companies in the US that arrange travel to North Korea. They always leave from China. It looks like a lot of other Westerners on your flight. They must all be tourists, right?
    And what was the fare and how did you pay? Was it through an intermediary?
    So, so interesting. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    • Travel is organised from Juche Travel Service. There are lot of international tourist on every flight from Beijing. Fare are included in the package price so I can’t work it out separately.

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