Airlines Compete to Update Fleets

      June 22, 2015 12:30

      Carriers around the world are updating their fleet, be it to improve efficiency and attract more passengers by purchasing state-of-the-art aircraft, or to gain a stronger foothold on international routes.

      ◆ Fuel Efficiency

      Korean Air recently decided to buy 50 Boeing B737MAX-8 and 50 Airbus A321NEO at a cost of US$12.23 billion, the biggest purchase by a Korean carrier. The main goal is to boost operating efficiency.

      The B737MAX-8 is supposed to be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than existing aircraft of the same size because of cutting-edge jet engines and wing design. The A321NEO also offers more than 15 percent fuel savings.

      Asiana Airlines also announced in February that it plans to purchase 25 A321NEOs. Asiana president Kim Soo-cheon said they will be deployed on flights to Japan, China and Southeast Asia.

      The two Korean carriers aim to boost their market share of the burgeoning and lucrative Asian routes.

      Those aircraft have been designed for optimum efficiency on flights taking less than five hours. That puts China, Japan and some Southeast Asian cities in range of Incheon International Airport.

      According to the International Air Transport Association, routes to China, Southeast Asia and other Asian cities grew 5.5 percent last year compared to the average growth rate of four percent for other routes.

      The number of travelers in Asia has been rising over the last five years to nearly one billion in 2014, accounting for one-third of global demand.

      Shin Moo-cheol at Korean Air said, "Competition over short and mid-range routes is heating up and we plan to offer unrivaled service by deploying the latest aircraft."

      ◆ Budget Carriers

      Budget carrier Jeju Air, which has 20 aircraft, plans to buy two more by the end of this year and boost its fleet to 40 by 2020, eventually offering flights to 60 destinations across Asia.

      Jin Air plans to purchase six more aircraft this year and boost its fleet to 19 passenger planes. It also plans to purchase two more B777-200ERs and deploy them on its long-haul flights to Honolulu.

      Foreign carriers based in Southeast Asia are also racing to acquire new aircraft to consolidate their footing in the ASEAN market, which is home to 600 million people.

      Indonesian flag carrier Garuda signed a memorandum of understanding last Thursday to acquire 90 state-of-the-art passenger planes for $20 billion. It will deploy them gradually by 2023.

      Vietnamese budget carrier Viet Jet Air recently signed an MOU with Airbus to buy six A321s by 2017. Viet Jet Air ordered 100 passenger planes last year.

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