I had a chance to fly with Air Koryo during my trip to the Northern Korea. To bear in mind – this company is annually included into the European Community black-list. I had a flight from Vladivostok (Russia) to Pyongyang. Nowadays it’s one the three regular flights of the Northern Korean airlines (along with the flights to Beijing and Shenyang). The price of the ticket for the one-and-a-bit hour flight was comparable to the discount price for the flight from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok (Russian airports, first in the west, second in the east of the country). I haven’t seen the tickets themselves but suppose they were e-tickets.
We flew to Pyongyang onboard TU-154B constructed in May, 1976 at the Samara aircraft factory “Aviacor”. It seems to be the oldest Tu-154 aircraft still in the air (the first regular flight of TU-154 was committed in 1972 and TU-154B in 1975).
In approx two hours before checking in the group of Northern Koreans arrived to the airport. It was impossible to mistake them for somebody else because of their distinctive appearance – serious, fit and neat, each of them was wearing a badge with Kim Ir Sen. Their huge luggage was amazing. It included boxes, bundles and even a cage with the dog.
At checking in I asked the seat in the tail of the aircraft. I’ve got the boarding pass to the 29th row. It appeared to be that nominally there were 28 rows in the cabin and practically only 15 rows were available. The seats in the tail were removed and only the back row (the 28th) was left. No problem, I took the place in the 28th row since there were not so many passengers. But the company representative drove me away to the head of the cabin. All the space in the tail has been loaded with the tremendous luggage with the narrow way to the toilets left.
We took off almost in time. During the flight the fizz or domestic beer and the “Korea Today” magazine were served. Little has been changed in the magazine since the time of the all-known song. While we were reading the life description of the Great Leader and filling in the three blanks for entering the country the plane began to descend and landed in Pyongyang (the Sunan airport).
By the way, the entrance forms were translated into Russian but with numerous mistakes. In one of the forms we had to list all the communication facilities possessed (including cell-phones).Moving to the terminal in Pyongyang we were amazed by the number of people wearing unpretentious grey military uniform. They were positioned all over the airport perimeter. Soon the terminal appeared. Surely we were met by the portrait of the Sunlike Leader.
Having come down by the ramp I noticed another ramp next door. I’ve seen something like that long ago in another epoch.
At the terminal entrance our passports were checked, one form was taken away and another one signed.
Further on was the queue to the passport control. Having passed it we met our guides (a man and a woman in particular clothes) who immediately took away our cell-phones, put them into the canvas sack, sealed and left for storage in the airport. There was no sense to hide the phone and try to keep it because it was out of the coverage, and there was no coverage at all. The guides had the cell phones with them.
The luggage delivery was also a curious procedure. Nevertheless there was an automatic transporter the luggage was put out to it by two pretty women under the guidance of their manager (beyond the frame).
The pictures of the checking-in for the domestic flights will perfectly reveal the authentic atmosphere of the airport.
Here’s the duty free shop selling the great amount of branded alcohol. But the experts doubted the authenticity of the brands.
The flight from Pyongyang to Vladivostok was carried out by TU-204, the newest aircraft with Air Koryo. There were some kinds of entertainment onboard – we were shown the reel about the airlines history and some cartoons in Korean, but there were no earphones. The same beer was served. This time we received sandwiches. It remained unknown why we were not fed at the flight from Vladivostok. Taking pictures onboard wasn’t allowed. But it’s obvious that the control was not severe.
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