Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea’s No. 2 carrier, plans to raise its fleet to 88 by 2015 to meet growing demand for long-range routes and become a major global player, a company executive said.
“Our long-term goal is to become the 10th biggest air carrier in the world in terms of operating margin,” said Kim Ebae, Asiana’s senior vice president for strategic planning, said in a session at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines conference held in Seoul.
“To achieve the goal, we will expand our size. We now have a fleet of 71 planes in 2011. The figure will increase to 83 in 2013 and to 88 in 2015.”
Asiana posted 148.1 billion won ($133.4 million) in operating profit for the first half of this year, down 47 percent from a year earlier, due to a drop in the number of air passengers stemming mainly from Japan’s March earthquake.
“Profitability of an air carrier is easily affected by external factors. Ours also has fluctuated widely,” said Kim.
“The aviation market enjoyed a boom in the 2004-07 period and we strove to strengthen our financial structure, and that effort helped us minimize damage during the 2008-09 global financial crisis and bring in our best results in 2010.”
Kim said that Asiana has a firm financial footing to prepare for another leap in the coming years by introducing new, bigger aircraft. (Yonhap News)
Asiana placed orders for six jumbo Airbus 380 planes and 30 mid-range A-350s to meet growing demand on popular routes between South Korea and the United States.
“Asiana has been wanting to fully absorb overflowing passengers heading to U.S. cities. The routes have long suffered from short supply,” said Kim. “Expanding flights for the region will be the key to our growth.”
Kim said the A-380 jets will be delivered from 2014 and the A350s from 2016, so it will only add one new aircraft to its fleet next year.
He said air passenger traffic will grow at an annual rate of 5 percent over the next five years but cargo demand will be sluggish for a while as it is more vulnerable to the global economic situation.
Meanwhile, the European aviation company Airbus predicted that South Korean demand for new aircraft would likely reach 382 over the next 20 years, worth around $67 billion, while Boeing of the U.S. expected that South Korea and Japan would have a combined demand for 1,250 new aircraft valued at $200 billion over the same period.