Korean Flag Carriers to Scrap Unprofitable 1st Class

  • By Chae Sung-jin

    May 08, 2019 13:19

    Asiana Airlines will take its unprofitable first-class seats out of all international flights in September, 29 years after the carrier first introduced them on flights between Seoul and Tokyo.

    The airline on Tuesday said they will be replaced with business-class seats that are 30-40 percent cheaper.

    Asiana is trying to increase profitability ahead of the planned selloff by getting rid of the white elephant of first class, which barely achieved an occupancy of 20 percent.

    Earlier, Korean Air also decided to remove first-class seats on long-haul routes to Barcelona, Madrid, Toronto and Vancouver, and on mid- and short-haul routes to Sapporo and Vladivostok.

    Clockwise from top, new business seats of Malaysia Airlines, Korean Air and Qatar Airways

    It was the first attempt to boost profitability by new chief Cho Won-tae since he took over after his father Cho Yang-ho died in early April.

    That means Korean Air will have no first class on 70 percent of international flights from June. It is also going to place new orders for medium-sized aircraft only without first class.

    First class was once considered a prestige loss leader, but now business-class seats are so comfortable that all but the biggest snobs have nothing to gain from the difference.

    An increasing number of global carriers are reducing or removing first-class seats amid growing demand for fuel-efficient aircraft and waning interest in super-jumbo jets that have space to spare for an empty first class.

    "In difficult circumstances, Korea's two main carriers have decided to concentrate on making profits instead of showing off," one airline executive said.

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