Photo: Getty Images
Korean Air is returning its mighty Airbus A380 to New York in July and timetabling the jumbo’s return to Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita in a few months’ time. The news caps a big week for the much-maligned A380, with Lufthansa confirming it is bringing the plane out of retirement. In Seoul, Korean Air is gearing up for a surge in customer demand with South Korea reopening to tourist travel.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Korean Air confirmed the return of the A380 and tidied up the launch dates across the three routes, with A380 flights to JFK starting soonest. Beyond the A380 news, Korean Air says it will have available seat kilometers (ASKs) back to 50% of pre-pandemic levels by September. Currently, ASKs are running at 33% of pre-pandemic levels. Korean Air previously wasn’t anticipating hitting the 50% mark until December. There’s a raft of route resumptions and increased frequencies about to take place across the Korean Air network, but first, let’s talk about those A380s.
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Korean will return its A380 to New York next week. Photo: Getty Images
Korean Air timetables A380 flights to New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong
Korean Air has been using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on its flagship flights between Seoul (ICN) and New York (JFK) but is swapping them out for A380-800 aircraft in July. Korean Air schedules available online reveal the jumbo is servicing the route daily from July 1. That’s the JFK-bound KE081 service and the Seoul-bound KE082 flights.
Korean Air’s A380s are now due to start flying to Hong Kong three times a week, with services to the now-closed off city departing on Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays from September 3. That Korean Air has decided to schedule A380s into Hong Kong in less than three months’ time is interesting. With a late evening arrival, those A380s will turn around to operate post-midnight departures on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday mornings from September 4. A mixture of Boeing 787-9 and 777-300ER flights will cover the ICN-HKG route on the other days of the week.
The Korean Air statement also says their A380-800 is heading back to Tokyo Narita (NRT) daily in September. At the time of writing, Korean Air’s online schedules show A330s operating three return services a day between ICN and NRT across September. A Korean Air spokesperson told Simple Flying that while they plan to fly the A380 to Tokyo in September, they haven’t locked in a start date yet.
Korean AIr will still be using smaller widebodies on most of its long-haul routes. Photo: Getty Images.
Korean Air starts increasing long-haul frequencies as soon as next week
Meanwhile, heading to North America, Korean Air will be supplementing those A380 flights to JFK with another five flights a week from July using smaller aircraft. That will go to double daily in August. The airline will offer two daily return flights on the Seoul – Los Angeles (LAX) route. Korean Air flights on the Seoul – Atlanta (ATL) route, the Seoul – San Francisco (SFO)n and the Seoul – Vancouver (YVR) route will operate daily from July.
Return flights between Seoul and Washington (IAD) and Seoul and Honolulu (HNL) will operate five to seven times per week from July. The Seoul – Chicago (ORD) city pair will see five return flights a week from July, and flights between Seoul and Boston (BOS) will ramp up to four times a week.
In the opposite direction, Korean Air flights between Seoul and Paris (CDG) will increase to daily in July. Frequencies on the Seoul – Frankfurt (FRA) and Seoul – Amsterdam (AMS) routes will increase to five per week. Meanwhile, suspended flights between Seoul and Milan (MXP) and Seoul and Vienna (VIE) will resume operating three times a week in July. In September, Korean Air will return to Barcelona, with three times a week Seoul – Barcelona (BCN) services.
This week has been a good week for A380s fans, with news from the Korean Air (pictured) and Lufthansa camps. Photo: Getty Images
Various Asian capitals to see double daily Korean Air flights from July
Closer to home, the Hong Kong route is increasing to daily flights in July, albeit not with the A380s quite yet. Also jumping to daily flights is the Seoul – Ulaanbaatar (UBN) route. Who knew Korean Air flew to Mongolia? In July, Korean Air will also increase frequencies on the Seoul – Taipei (TPE) route from three to four times a week.
Elsewhere around Asia, the Seoul – Bangkok (BKK), Seoul – Singapore (SIN), Seoul – Manila (MAN), and Seoul – Ho Chi Minh (SGN) routes will jump to double daily in July. Flights on the Seoul – Hanoi (HAN) and Seoul – Jakarta (CGK) will step up to daily services in July.
Aside from the A380 flights to Narita later in the year, other Japanese routes are also getting some attention from Korean Air. Flights between Gimpo (GMP) and Haneda (HND) are resuming today and will operate twice a week. Korean Air flights between Seoul and Sapporo (CTS) are back in July, with twice-weekly services that will increase to daily services in August. Also, in August, Korean Air will resume flying the Seoul – Okinawa (OKA) route three times a week.
Left out in the cold, at least for the time being, is mainland China. While Korean Air seems happy to take a bet on Hong Kong, it isn’t scheduling extra flights into mainland China yet. In its statement announcing the rebooted international flights, Korean Air said, “Chinese routes are currently limited due to the maintenance of China’s quarantine policy, but more flights are planned in the future according to the international flight operation consultation between Korea and China.”
New York’s JFK Airport will be the first airport to see Korean Air A380-800 flights resume. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying
Korean Air is pulling out all stops to successfully relaunch its international long-haul network
After a prolonged period of minimal long-haul flying, Korean Air is pulling out all stops to get its relaunch right. They are locking in and retraining staff, securing supplies, and checking aircraft.
“Korean Air has meticulously checked and inspected the exterior, tires, landing gear, electrical equipment, and engines of aircraft that have been parked for a long time during the COVID-19 pandemic, every seven days, 14 days, and 30 days,” says Korean Air. “In addition, in order to put it into actual flight, it requires about 400 hours of detailed inspection based on a large aircraft. It takes about seven days when six mechanics are put in.”
Passengers will notice some refinements to Korean Air’s previously highly regarded in-flight product. In-flight service will be back to normal in July but with a few bonus extras.
“The in-flight meal menu is also diversified. In particular, in addition to Korean Air’s representative Korean food menu, Bibimbap, new Korean dishes will be introduced each season,” adds the Korean Air statement. Yum. “In addition, snacks and desserts, alcoholic beverages and beverages will be strengthened even more than before COVID-19.”
This is all terrific news from Korean Air. Until recently, their international services had virtually vanished. Now, one of Asia’s best airlines is getting its mojo back. All I need do is get myself booked on a Korean Air A380 flight later this year.