North Korea’s Air Koryo So Bad China’s Safety Regulator Clamping Down on Flights

I call Pakistan International Airlines “the world’s worst airline” but that’s only because I have some threshold for global reach. PIA flies to North America. Air Koryo doesn’t but Air Koryo could make a reasonable play for truly being the world’s worst.

Air Koryo’s international operations mostly involve flights to China, but China is planning to place limits on those flights in light of an incident last month where an Air Koryo Tupolov TU204-300 from Pyongyang to Beijing made an emergency landing due to smoke in the cabin.


Air Koryo Tupolev TU-204 Approaching Beijing, copyright boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

According to China’s civil aviation regulator, the “smoke had come from a call button located under the luggage rack on the right hand side of the cabin between rows 20 and 27.”

There were multiple problems with the Air Koryo incident — from maintenance to training — and China’s regulator has 7 steps that the North Korean state airline must take based on this and other incidents:

  1. improve incident training related to this emergency
  2. improve communication with air traffic control
  3. improve maintenance
  4. improve training on burst tires
  5. improve handling of engine fires
  6. train better for emergency decompression
  7. get up to speed on traffic collision avoidance warnings

And to think they Kim Jong Un’s private jet into commercial service.

Although Air Koryo entered the modern age with online booking in 2012, these issues may give you pause about even booking a $9 systemwide mistake fare.

Their new domestic terminal in Pyongyang, though, is absolute perfection, built in harmony with modern aesthetic taste and national character!

It’s worth noting just how much freedom people have in Pyongyang. Those permitted to travel to the airport, and with enough resources to actually do so, do not have to go through a nude-o-scope.

The terminal features upscale dining and non-consumerist retail consistent with communist principles shops.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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