I hate flying. I’m not scared, mind you. No, I hate the entire experience. I hate the hassle — arriving early, checking in, trudging through the security checkpoints, and how long it takes to disembark. I also get terrible motion sickness so I drug myself to the gills with Dramamine, ginger ale, and whatever over-the-counter drugs won’t levy dangerous side-effects. And every spot of turbulence feels like the end of the world.
So the prospect of riding the “world’s worst airline” — Air Koryo from North Korea — sounds as appealing as a hole in the head.
But one intrepid photographer, Aram Pan, did just that and documented his experience.
The pictures are from Pan’s DPRK 360, a project aiming to “capture the essence of North Korea through the use of 360° panoramas, photos and videos.” The courage is all his.
Air Koryo has the lowest rating on the air travel site Skytrax — 1 star — making it ostensibly the “world’s worst airline.” The 1-star rating symbolizes “some very poor standards of product across the rating sectors, with poor, inconsistent standards of staff service delivery in onboard and airport environments.”
And from the very beginning of your adventure with Air Koryo, it’s not hard to see why. The airline’s workhorse is the Ilyushin Il-18, a 57-year-old turboprop Soviet-era plane that looks like it’s already crash-landed.
The airliner is so miserably outdated (and dangerous) that it’s barred from flying in and out of the EU. I’m downing some Nauzene just thinking about it.
In his photoblog, Aram claims Air Koryo hasn’t had a fatality since 1983, which is technically true, but the Ilyushin Il-18 was involved in deadly accidents as late as 2001 — I’m tempted to say this is a decent safety record, but considering the airline’s scarcity, this is no great accomplishment. It’d be like trumpeting the Space Shuttle’s safety record over the last decade.
The terror begins at check-in, where your luggage is weighed by a scale that looks like it might give you tetanus. And the cockpit is older than disco and twice as scary.
The rest — from the perfunctory seats to the air-conditioning units — are, to be kind, minimalist.
One surprise — Air Koryo actually serves real food (and according to Aram, it’s not half bad). Though regular international travelers probably know that airline meals aren’t as scarce worldwide as they are in the U.S.
Another shock — despite the plane’s appearance, the ride was relatively smooth, according to Aram.
All in all, Aram describes the flight as “an experience I will remember for a long, long time.” And that’s as close as this editor will get to Air Koryo.
I consider myself an aviation enthusiast — from outside the plane. And one part of me admires the nostalgia of a piece of history like the Ilyushin Il-18. Just don’t get me within a thousand feet of one.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense