|Asiana Airlines CEO Kim Soo-cheon (left) speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)|
“This year will be the year for our second foundation in many ways,” the new Asiana head said during his first press conference at a Seoul hotel.
Kim took office on Jan. 1 to replace former CEO Yoon Young-doo. Kim first joined Asiana when it was set up in 1988 and led the successful debut of its budget carrier Air Busan.
The leadership change came after an Asiana passenger jet crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport in July, although the company did not relate the two issues.
The new CEO emphasized safety, and stood by Kumho Asiana Group chairman Park Sam-koo’s personal message to him: “If an airline cannot guarantee safety, there is no reason for it to exist.”
He said the company has been making all-out efforts to streamline its safety systems overall, including cockpit communication, under the leadership of new safety chief Akiyoshi Yamamura, a former safety specialist at Japan’s ANA. He joined Asiana in December 2013.
“It is true that the Confucianism culture still impairs communication within the cockpit,” Kim said, referring to how hierarchy and seniority at times kept pilots from communicating efficiently.
He stressed that the company would address the problem as better cockpit communications is one way to improve safety.
Kim, however, declined to explain whether such communication issues were one of the main reasons behind the July crash, saying that he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
This year, Asiana hopes to achieve up to 6 trillion won in sales and 180 billion won in operating profit. Kim said he believes the airline would secure up to 16.5 million passengers this year.
As part of the plan to strengthen its long-distance routes, the company plans to add two A380 jumbo jets this year and another two in 2017. The first one will begin operation in July, connecting Seoul and Los Angeles.
Operating the more fuel-efficient A380 planes is expected to help reduce an annual 10 billion won to 20 billion won in costs, Kim predicted.
Aside from the A380, the company will adopt eight A350 aircrafts so that eventually the premium large models will make up almost 60 percent of the planes that it owns.
Kim added that profit loss in Asiana’s short-distance routes where Korean budget carriers are aggressively competing against foreign rivals will be inevitable in the future.
“Less Japanese travelers are coming to Korea due to the weaker yen, and this has been impacting our short-distance operations,” the CEO said. “We will work together with Japanese travel agencies to turn the problem around.”
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)