The World’s Most Bizarre Airline: North Korea’s Air Koryo

North Korea’s Air Koryo has gained a reputation as the world’s most bizarre airline, captivating aviation enthusiasts and travelers with its unique and surreal characteristics. In a recent video by aviation blogger Sam Chui, he delves into the peculiarities and distinctiveness of this airline, shedding light on what makes Air Koryo a fascinating subject of interest.

A Glimpse into Air Koryo

Air Koryo, established in 1955, is North Korea’s state-owned airline. Despite its age, the airline operates a fleet of aging Soviet-era aircraft, including the Ilyushin Il-62, Tupolev Tu-204, and Antonov An-148. The fleet itself is a living museum of aviation history, offering a rare opportunity to experience the charm and quirks of these vintage planes.

The Onboard Experience

One of the most intriguing aspects of flying with Air Koryo is the onboard experience. Passengers are treated to a journey back in time, with retro interiors that evoke the feel of mid-20th century aviation. The cabin crew, dressed in vintage uniforms, adds to the nostalgic atmosphere.

In-flight Entertainment and Meals

Unlike most modern airlines, Air Koryo’s in-flight entertainment is minimal. Passengers might be offered North Korean films or propaganda content, providing a glimpse into the country’s culture and ideology. However, the real highlight is the in-flight meal. Sam Chui’s video showcases the infamous “Koryo Burger,” a mysterious and much-discussed sandwich that has become an iconic symbol of the airline. Served with a side of coleslaw and wrapped in a simple paper packaging, the Koryo Burger is a culinary experience in itself, albeit one that has received mixed reviews from passengers.

Ground Services and Lounges

Air Koryo’s ground services are as unique as its in-flight offerings. Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, the airline’s main hub, is a relatively small and utilitarian facility. The airport’s architecture and décor reflect North Korean aesthetics, with minimalistic design and functional amenities.

VIP Lounge

For those seeking a more exclusive experience, Air Koryo offers a VIP lounge. This lounge, though modest by international standards, provides a quiet space with basic refreshments and comfortable seating. It is a testament to the airline’s efforts to cater to its passengers despite the limitations imposed by its isolated status.

Challenges and Controversies

Operating under strict international sanctions, Air Koryo faces numerous challenges. The airline is banned from flying to several countries and has limited access to modern aviation technology. These restrictions have led to a reliance on older aircraft and have hindered the airline’s ability to modernize its fleet.

Moreover, Air Koryo has been rated as one of the world’s worst airlines by several aviation rating agencies. Critics often cite safety concerns, outdated equipment, and limited services as major drawbacks. However, for aviation enthusiasts and adventurers, these very factors contribute to the airline’s allure, offering a rare glimpse into a largely inaccessible nation.


Air Koryo stands as a testament to North Korea’s unique place in the global aviation landscape. Its vintage fleet, nostalgic onboard experience, and the mystique surrounding the airline make it a subject of fascination for many. As Sam Chui’s video illustrates, flying with Air Koryo is not just a journey from one destination to another but an adventure into the heart of one of the world’s most enigmatic countries. Whether viewed as a bizarre relic of a bygone era or a symbol of North Korean resilience, Air Koryo undoubtedly holds a unique position in the world of aviation.

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