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Korean Air embarks on test flight of A380

Korean Air’s new Airbus A380 (Yonhap News)
Korean Air’s new Airbus A380 (Yonhap News)

YEONGJONG ISLAND ― Korean Air’s brand new Airbus A380 superjumbo made a successful landing after its first test flight in Korea on Thursday.

The event took place a day ahead of the world’s largest passenger jet’s maiden commercial flight to Japan’s Narita International Airport. About 200 journalists, customers and company officials flew on a two-hour trip to the country’s East Sea.

The A380 has double decks and a passenger capacity of up to 900 in a single-class lay out and 525 in a typical three-class configuration, Airbus said. The Toulouse, France-based developer claims the airliner generates less emissions and noise than jets made by its rival Boeing from the U.S.

On June 2, Korean Air became the sixth carrier in the world and first in Northeast Asia to add the much-touted A380 to its fleet. Singapore Airlines made the first move in 2007, followed by Emirates, Qantas, Air France and Lufthansa in turn.

“We decided to order the plane to offer air travel experiences that customers have never had,” Cho Yang-ho, chairman and chief executive of Korean Air, said in an in-flight conference. “Through the adoption of A380, Korean Air hopes to be reborn as a prestigious carrier that they always want to get on board.”

In efforts to secure space as much as possible for all customers, Korean Air put only 407 seats into the plane, compared to Air France with 538, Singapore Airlines with 471 and Qantas with 450.

The national flag carrier also made upper decks only for the business class along with duty free shops, self-service bars and lounges.

The latest A380 will be operated on itineraries to Tokyo and Hong Kong starting Friday and expanded to those to Bangkok in July, New York in September and Los Angeles in October once the company takes delivery of additional planes, Korean Air said.

Operating a total of 109 passenger jets, Korea’s top airline is scheduled to receive an additional four A380s by the end of the year and five more through 2014.

The decision made in 2003 on the order resulted from the company’s long-term management philosophy, Cho said.

“Korean Air makes decisions based on our strategy that values long-term investment rather than short-term gains,” he said. “When we were privatized in 1969, there was no private airline except those in the U.S. Stable management following the early privatization enabled us to retain resilience and long-term outlook.”

Early this year, the company said it targets recording operating profit this year of 1.28 trillion won ($1.17 billion), up more than 15 percent from last year, by attracting more premium-class travelers with the new aircraft.

It projects passenger traffic to increase 8.3 percent this year compared with 2010 and freight traffic 3.8 percent.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)

A passenger on the test flight of Korean Air’s new Airbus A380 on Thursday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)
A passenger on the test flight of Korean Air’s new Airbus A380 on Thursday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)

Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho in a new Airbus A380 on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho in a new Airbus A380 on Thursday. (Yonhap News)

Inside of the new Airbus A380 (Yonhap News)
Inside of the new Airbus A380 (Yonhap News)

 
Dokdo Islet is seen from the window of the Korean Air's A380. (Yonhap News)
Dokdo Islet is seen from the window of the Korean Air's A380. (Yonhap News)
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