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Korean Air Suspends Flights, Adjusts Premium Classes and Freighter Fleet

A Korean Air A380 in Seoul. The airline is adjusting its flight schedules and its fleet offerings in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

Korean Air announced Monday that it is scaling back a significant number of flights due to the decrease in passenger volume because of the coronavirus. In a press release, the airline announced it would be either suspending or reducing the frequency on dozens of flights in both its international and domestic networks.

Beginning Aug. 1, Korean Air will suspend 14 round-trip flights from Incheon, South Korea to seven cities in the Americas. Additionally, nine flights to the Americas will drop from daily service to a reduced schedule of 3-4 times a week. Service to Honolulu; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Chicago; New York; Boston; Washington; Atlanta; Vancouver, Canada and other cities affected.

Similar schedule adjustments are being made for flights from Incheon to cities in Europe, the Middle East, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Oceana and Asia. Over 300 international flights and 17 domestic flights are affected.

Seating and Class Changes

Korean Air is making a number of adjustments with its aircraft involving both its class offerings and the planes in its fleet. These changes reflect adjusted demand related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Korean Air has stopped offering first-class ticket seats on some of its international flight segments through the summer of 2021, according to a report by One Mile at a Time. The only flights being offered with first-class seats are those aboard the Airbus A380.

This isn’t the first time Korean made such a move on its first-class product offering. Korean cut back some of its first-class seat sale options in 2019 when it stopped offering the product on certain flight segments operated on its Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 aircraft.

It is unclear if Korean Air will remove any seats or leave them installed if it resumes offering first-class seats on more international flights again.

Korean Air is also moving to seek technical and regulatory permission to convert some of its aircraft to freighters. ch-aviation reports the airline has asked the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport for permission to convert some of its Boeing 777-300ERs into freighters.

Korean Air operates a sizable fleet of cargo-only aircraft compromising mostly of 747-400s, 747-8s and 777-200s. Each 777-300 the airline converts could add 10 tonnes of payload to its cargo operations.

Converting aircraft to freighters makes sense while passenger volumes have declined due to the pandemic. Korean Air is expected to report a $124 million net profit in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a large boost in cargo sales.

“Halt of passenger aircraft increased cargo traffic, resulting in a spike in freight charges. Sales from cargo is projected to stand at 1.2 trillion Won [$1 billion], up 96.2% on year,” said analyst Kim Yoo-hyuk from Hanwha Investment & Securities in a report released Tuesday.

Rick Shideler


  • Rick Shideler

    Rick is a retired airline maintenance professional with over 40 years experience in commercial, corporate and military aviation sectors. Rick holds an FAA Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) and a FCC General RadioTelephone Licenses. Rick is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has served in multiple leadership positions including Director of Maintenance for a large corporate aviation firm, airline Director of Engineering and has chaired multiple aviation maintenance safety and reliability industry committees. Rick took his first airplane ride at six months old and became an airline geek shortly thereafter.

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