Airline: Air Koryo
Plane: Tupolev 204-100 (1995)
Flight number: JS152
Seat 5F, economy class.
Departure: Beijing, China (Beijing Capital International Airport) at 1:00 PM local time
Arrival: Pyongyang, North Korea (Sunan International Airport) at 4:00 PM local time
To get into North Korea, you have no choice but to go through Beijing (as far as I know). Air Koryo has flights going to Vladivostok and Macau, but I don't believe these flights are open for tourists. My evidence for this is that I was sitting next to 2 Russians on the plane, for whom surely it would have been simpler to fly out of Vladivostok, if that had been available. There were 3 options for the trip to Pyongang: both ways by plane, both ways by train, or a combination of the two. I took the last option, because even if flying an Air Koryo Tupolev 204 would be a 2-hour aeronautical orgasm, I also wanted to experience what it was like to ride between Pyongyang and Beijing, on a North Korean overnight train! Another kind of orgasm, this one lasting exactly 22 hours!
To go to North Korea, you have to go through a travel agency approved by KITC (Korea International Travel Company, the government-operated North Korean travel agency). I chose Avitus Global fr om amongst a dozen approved companies because it's one of the few which isn't limited to citizens of Russia and China, and because it was the cheapest one I found. Since you all must be wondering the same thing, these 6 days, including flight, train, hotel, transportation, guides and chauffer, morning and evening restaurants, cost me a total of 1200 euro. I thought this was more than reasonable and the service was very professional, so I recommend them without hesitation: http://north-korea-travel.com/
In China this flight departed from the same terminal as "Int'l / HK, Macao, Taiwan".
There were 2 flights to Pyongyang Sunan Airport that day. Mine was the first one, JS152.
Having arrived very early, I was the first to check in. Note the pixelated logo…
The baggage check was interesting…
One or two hours later, when I was already spotting in the waiting room, my traveling companion-to-be joined the queue. I should mention that a Tu-204 is as big as an Airbus A321 and Air Koryo offers no self check in…
Since the terminal was the same as skyteam's, I'll take this opportunity to note that certain companies in the alliance have a great way of accommodating SkyPriority passengers. But not all of them…
Who would've thought that Air Koryo has a lounge? They share it with Air China. I would've asked about upgrading to business class, but there was no mention of any such possibility. No doubt the business class is reserved for members of the "Workers' Party".
A lovely blend of SkyTeam, Star Alliance and future Oneworld, amongst airlines not in an alliance. Even more surprising was that Air France was in the next room to the right.
Here is the long-awaited beast arriving… I had the pleasure of flying with plane number P-633.
Upon entering the plane I was greeted by a sound bite of communist music which wasn't cliché AT ALL, but it did have the benefit of setting the mood.
There were about 2 or 3 rows of business class.
Nice leather seats in economy class.
And here is the much-anticipated catering. I must say that it was very good. For a 2-hour flight in economy class, few companies offer such service. Points to Air Koryo!
A few words on the flight itself. The pilots were North Korean, though I had imagined they would be Chinese or Russians, and they were not too chatty. The basics and nothing more. I'll note that we had a bit of turbulence and the demonstration of safety procedures lasted for a good half-hour (during the meal-time), but all in all, it was alright.
The Tupolev 204 is a very good aircraft. Soundproof, comfortable… Truly a beautiful machine. If you ever get the opportunity to fly in one, don't hesitate.
Most of the planes at Pyongang Airport consisted of Russian offerings from the past few decades, including:
This three-turbine plane, is it a Tu-154? Not that I was disappointed to fly in a 204, but…
And so here ended the flight with Air Koryo, in a Paxbus to make the quarter-mile trip which separated us from the terminal. On the left is the old terminal, on the right, the new one. You can't really see a difference from the inside…
Air Koryo is a very good airline company. The personnel were top notch (all Koreans, South or North, seem to be top notch by default), the catering was really good, there was in-flight entertainment to break up the North Korean opera during the flight (for example), and on top of that we arrived exactly on time. I really don't know for what I can take off points… So as to keep to our grading scale, I will give this company 17 all around, but frankly I don't see why this company shouldn't get 18 or 20.
Thanks for reading!
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