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Ministry conducts special probe into Asiana Airlines

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that it is looking into Asiana Airlines after over 60 flights were delayed from their original schedule since earlier this month. It has been speculated that the company is suffering from a lack of maintenance staff and budget for repair. 

According to Asiana Airlines, the departures of some 60 flights were delayed for at least one hour since July 15. The company said the delays were due to normal airplane maintenance prior to takeoff, but some staff said there is a lack of maintenance personnel. 

(Asiana Airlines)
(Asiana Airlines)

On Monday, six domestic flights were canceled at Gimpo Airport as of 6 a.m.

To take a close look at Asiana’s handling of maintenance personnel, ministry officials said 10 investigators will be dispatched to the airport to conduct a special investigation. 

“We will firstly find out whether there is a sufficient number of maintenance staff, and also check if Asiana has the intention to improve its management of spare maintenance parts and manuals on how to use it,” said Kim Sang-do, a ministry official. 

The ministry added that it would investigate not only the number of maintenance staff but also their qualifications and experience. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Shin Chang-hyeon of the ruling Democratic Party on Tuesday revealed data on budget airlines’ number of maintenance staff per plane. 

According to data, Air Seoul and Air Busan, budget airline brands operated by Asiana Airlines, had 3.5 and 8.7 maintenance staff per plane, respectively. Jin Air, Korean Air’s low-cost carrier, had seven maintenance staff per plane.

The figures are far below the ministry’s recommendation of having 12 maintenance staff per plane, with strengthened criteria imposed on LCCs since 2016.

Air carriers with inadequate maintenance personnel may receive penalties, but the ministry has not given any penalty so far.

T’way, Eastar Air and Jeju Air were the only LCCs which met the ministry’s requirement with 13.8, 13.4 and 12.6 maintenance staff, respectively. 

Earlier this month, the country’s No. 2 full-service carrier was mired in a series of scandals including its poor management of inflight meals after a caterer failed to deliver food on time. Criticism has continued over Asiana, after a video clip showed Asiana cabin attendants singing a song in praise of Chairman Park Sam-koo.

The company was also accused of having appointed a foreigner -- a close friend of Chairman Park -- to its board of directors from 2004 to 2010, which goes against Korean aviation law.

By Kim Da-sol (