Air Koryo, the North Korean carrier described as "the world's worst airline", has finally moved into the digital age with its first online booking service.
The state-owned airline, which is the only one in the world with just one star according to the ranking service Skytrax, now sells flights from Pyongyang to Beijing and Shenyang in China, and Vladivostok in Russia, on its website.
The website (www.airkoryo.com.kp/en), which launched in August, promises "easier, quicker, reliable booking and ticketing services."
Early reports seems to suggest the website is unlikely to help the North Korean flag carrier shake its one-star rating, however. Users have already reported slow response speeds, with some searches not offering any availability for flights, while others result in an error message appearing on the screen.
The one-star rating, according to Skytrax, is reserved for airlines that offer a "very poor quality performance... with poor, inconsistent standards of ....service ...in on-board and airport environments."
The majority of the Air Koryo's fleet consists of Russian-made Tupolev aircraft, although older planes constructed in the former Soviet Union are used for domestic flights.
The majority of its aircraft are banned from operating in the EU.
Few North Koreans are allowed to travel outside their impoverished state.
North Korea expert Leonid Petrov was quoted on North Korea-watching website NK News as saying: "Clearly, this website is created with the purpose to impress the people who have never thought of traveling to Pyongyang".
A business class flight to Beijing was listed online at a price of $US374 ($A361), a lot for a country where annual gross domestic product per capita is estimated at $US1800.
While it is the only airline to have the one-star rating, there are 29 functioning airlines listed with a two-star Skytraxr rating, defined as representing "poor, inconsistent standards."
Air Zimbabwe, Bulgaria Air and Ryanair are among the airlines listed in this category.
- The Telegraph, London, with Reuters