AIR KORYO ECONOMY CLASS TUPOLEV 204-100 BEIJING – PYONGYANG: REVIEW

Flight: JS152, Beijing – Pyongyang (15 April 2019)
Loyalty Scheme: N/A
Frequency: 1 X daily
Duration: 1 hour and 55 minutes

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For years I heard numerous things about the North Korean national carrier Air Koryo. Frankly the feedback wasn’t great! Frequently the airline has been named one of the worst airlines in the world alongside the likes of Lion Air and Ryan Air. Besides the thrill I was experiencing from going into the unknown with North Korea, I was equally enthuiastic about the prospect of flying their airline. Was the airline really as terrible as it was made out to be or was it simply misunderstood?! I flew to DPRK to find out…

The Seat

 

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Economy 26A. Seated in the middle of the first section of economy the fitout was as I had expected, retro! Surprisingly the red and grey leather chair was comfortable despite probably being fitted years ago and the leg room more than ample. No other wow factor here but more satisfactory than I expected in terms of comfort.

Entertain me

Whilst there wasn’t any seat back entertainment, there was a drop down screen option that played some rather interesting North Korean films and poor soap operas. There was also the odd propganda video or two thrown in for good measure. It just wouldn’t be DPRK without one now wouldn’t it?!

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Again another food/ drink rumour that was debunked on this flight. I had seen a few images online of the infamous ‘Koryo Burger’ where the meat was unidentifiable and the burger inedible. The repulsiveness of the burger had garnered itself a cult following with many who had flown Air Koryo coming there for the burger.

The Air Koryo staff came through with a decent meal and drinks service. I was offered water, sparkling soda (basically soft drink), tea and coffee. I ordered some of the grape soda which I admit is delicious addictive. Now to the burger that was placed on my tray. On observation it didn’t look as bad I had imagined. The ingredients were simple; meat patty, lettuce, cheese and sauce. I went to take a bite and wow, it was packed full of flavour. The burger at best reminded me of a ramen burger in terms of flavour. It was slightly peppery yet had an asian beef zest to it. Admittedly I enjoyed this burger quite a bit and would have easily ordered a second. Yes the burger was that good!

A little later into the flight staff came through with a second drinks service. I ordered a coffee and a cup of the orange soda. Both quenched my thirst and were nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what you would get onboard anywhere else. Again the service was efficient and friendly, something I did not expect considering their so called one star SKYTRAX rating.

Verdict

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Air Koryo really did surprise me. The staff were well dressed, the presentation of the plane was clean and the service was relatively good. I don’t believe for a minute that the national carrier warrants the one star rating it has been unfairly given. Perhaps some people have rated this too harshly without taking into consideration the competition. To be frank I got more bang for my buck and better service on here than I have done with a number of low cost (and even some full service) carriers.

The food and drinks whilst nothing to write home about, were satisfactory. I believe the asian flavour of the burger for some travellers may have been a little too left of field for their tastebuds. The burger certainly did not deserve the tag of inedible that it had been given.

All in all my experience flying Air Koryo was smooth flying. I would without hesitation fly this airline again.

 

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Comment

Have you ever flown with Air Koryo or dared to try one of their Koryo burgers? Was your experience better than expected like mine or was it turbulent like the airline’s SKYTRAX rating? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Lufthansa orders new A350 and B787 aircraft

Lufthansa is ready to upgrade their aging aircraft of A340s, B747s (and surprisingly the not so aging A380) with a fresh order of 40 new aircraft from Airbus between 2022 and 2027. That’s right, the aging rockstar of the European skies is getting a makeover to a more youthful image thanks to a fresh batch of planes.

So how does the order stack up?

  • Lufthansa will add an addition 20 A350s to its already ordered 25 A350 order; in total 45 aircraft
  • Lufthansa will add an additional 20 Boeing 787-9s to its fleet
  • Lufthansa will remove six of their 14 Airbus A380s in 2022 and 2023, instead replacing them with their newly ordered A350s

The reasoning behind such a sweeping change is that the Lufthansa Group have identified a need to invest in more fuel efficient aircraft going forward as part of their commitment to sustainability. It is a pity that the A380 has come under this as their version of the aircraft in my opinion is one of the best in the skies. Thankfully not all of their A380 aircraft are being sold on (in fact it less than half of their total A380 fleet).

In addition having visited the Boeing factory last year I am surprised about the B747 announcement considering that Boeing has further orders for the aircraft from Lufthansa at the time (October 2018).

I’ll be curious to see how the fleet evolves for Lufthansa but will hold my breath on this one as the airline has had some mixed results in the past when it comes to new fleet rollouts.

QANTAS INCREASES CARRY ON ALLOWANCE (CUE EXCITEMENT)

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Now here is an announcement or more ‘enhancement’ that I can get behind. Qantas this week announced that domestic passengers will soon be able to board flights with heavier carry-on bags after responding to pressure from passengers over its ‘limiting’ 7 kg allowance.

Commencing March 25, travellers will be allowed to carry on one item weighing as much as 10 kgs and a second piece up to 4 kgs, bringing the total cabin allowance to 14 kgs per person. In addition passengers are allowed to bring one small personal item bag (ie. handbag or laptop bag).

This is quite generous and shows for once an airline actually listening to what people want rather than telling people what they should have. That said any cabin baggage weighing greater than 10 kg will still need to be checked in.

Well done Qantas. This is one move that I hope other airlines won’t be weighed down in making a reactionary decision and following.

QATAR LAUNCHES NEW ECONOMY SEAT

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Qatar Airways for a while had teased the world with its plans to introduce a new economy class seat and having seen their revolutionary business class product, I was hopeful they would also be revolutionary in the economy product.

Qatar have a habit of overhyping their launches (ie. their latest video/ film) and sometimes fails to deliver on the hype. This week the airline did it again with their new economy seat and whilst it’s a dramatic improvement to their current seat, it’s more enhancement than revolution.

There’s some great specification in it with the new seat featuring;

  • 13.3 inch 4K widescreens
  • Enhanced connectivity and faster wifi
  • Enhanced legroom
  • Adjustable, lightweight headrest
  • Semi-fixed back shell design with a 19 degree recline system
  • Pre-reclined position of six degrees for takeoff and landing
  • Dual multi-function tables for maximum adaptability and table space
  • USB Type C with high power fast charging capabilities

The biggest takeaway is obviously the widescreen TV and an innovative 19-degree recline system, meaning the seat will not recline by re-positioning the back of the seat and in turn impacting the space of the person behind you. Again these will improve the comfort of the passenger but overall not make a major difference to their journey.

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One thing that has impressed me however is nothing to do with the seat but the new ‘QCuisine’ for economy passengers which will feature new menu items and greater choices, including larger main courses and desserts. Perfect for the one like myself who is always left peckish from the small airline servings on the plane.

The seat which will debut on the A321neo this year will eventually be installed on their rest of its fleet

Innovation or simple enhancement? Keen to hear your thoughts on the new Qatar economy seat.

 

ETIHAD TAKE OFF A380 FLIGHT FROM SYDNEY SKIES

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Etihad Airways really is starting to become a shadow of its former, glamorous self. The airline when it took to the skies was full of promise and was in fact ground breaking at one point. Lately Etihad announcements are something I dread as they have been the last two years about news of removing or cancelling product and/or aircraft. Today’s disappointing announcement from Etihad is the removal of one of their popular A380 services to Sydney, which will be replaced by a Boeing 777-300ER on an ongoing basis from July 2019.

Previously Etihad announced that flight EY451 and the EY450 return leg would revert from the current short-term Boeing 777 and back to to its flagship Airbus A380 in May.. Ssdly Etihad has had a rethink of this and decided to keep the change permanently.

The downgrade in aircraft means those set to fly the A380 will need to review their booking, especially those in business as the B777 possesses the last generation business class seat as well as lacks the pizzazz of a onboard bar area. Those in first will also be affected with the 777s first suites no match for the spaciousness of the A380s. Moreover those seeking a shower best wait til they land because the inflight shower is not on the B777 aircraft.

Coincidentally the announcement and date of it removal aligns with Etihad’s launch of the A380 between Abu Dhabi and Seoul.

Personally if you are flying a premium class I would make the switch. B777s are a horrid aircraft; noisy, lacking space and generally disappointing.

Will you be switching aircraft if your booking has landed on the new B777 aircraft? Kene to hear your thoughts.

QANTAS TAKES OFF FOR FIJI

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Qantas for the last couple of years has moved slowly away from the business market and focused its energies on the recreation side of things. First it was the launch of direct flights to Bali (which was predominantly left to their Jetstar arm prior) and now Qantas has decided they want a piece of the island action in Fiji! That’s right folks, Qantas will be flying direct Sydney – Nadi from 31 March 2019.

Flying four times weekly, the flight will be serviced by a Boeing 737. QF101 will depart Sydney at 10.30am every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to arrive in Nadi at 4.30pm. The QF102 return leg departs Nadi at 5.35pm the same day for an 8pm Sydney arrival.

The news doesn’t mean that Qantas will shy from its codeshare with Fiji Airways flight to Nadi, particularity now that Fiji Airways is a member of the Oneworld Connect scheme.

Will you be taking a leisurely island holiday to Fiji now that Qantas is in the game? Keen to hear your thoughts.

Fiji Airways officially joins Oneworld Connect

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Fiji Airways this week officially became Oneworld Connect’s first partner. As a new partner it unlocks an array of benefits for Oneworld members. Oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs due to the large costs associated with joining an alliance.

So what does this mean for those as part of the Oneworld program?

Prior to joining Oneworld Connect, priority boarding on Fiji Airways flights was reserved only for business class passengers and the airline’s Tabua Club members. The change will now priority boarding benefits expanded to all Oneworld members across all airports when travelling with Fiji Airways.

In addition customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas when flying on Fiji Airways will have the ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles). The benefits will also be reciprocated for Fiji Airways Tabua frequent flyer members when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

However unlike other Oneworld partners, Connect doesn’t offer Oneworld members access to FJ lounges or Oneworld when flying under an FJ coded flight. This means that unless you are flying FJ Business Class, you will not receive lounge access no matter your status. This is quite disappointing considering that Oneworld benefits like lounge access are highly regarded and for many are a main drawcard to being with an alliance.

If that isn’t disappointing, as you could tell not all Oneworld members are treated the same. Below is a chart breaking down the benefits for each airline.

In my view the new addition of FJ is better than no addition with some good benefits there in terms of points and boarding. However with some airlines treated more preferably than others as part of this new deal, I feel this has added a layer of confusion in terms of who is eligible for what. Additionally a lack of airport lounge access is disappointing and one can only hope will be reviewed soon. Time will tell if the Connect concept lasts the distance.