Third times’ the charm as Korean Air Lines (KE) replaces its daily flight from its hub at Seoul’s Incheon Airport (ICN) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) on board a Boeing 777-300ER to an Airbus A380-800 in 2016.
Korean Air Lines
When the Asian airline received its first Airbus A380 in 2011, it initially picked London Heathrow (this airport is ranked third in 2014’s Top 30 – Insight) as its first European destination. At the last minute, it chose Paris Charles Du Gaulle Airport (CDG) instead leaving Londoners disappointed. It was not a surprising strategic move as CDG plays host as a major SkyTeam alliance hub and is home to Air France.
In 2012, Frankfurt Airport (FRA) was chosen as the second European airport with the A380 service over London again.
Four years into operations, Korean Air Lines decided that it is time for London to receive its own double decker service.
The first outbound flight using the Airbus is scheduled for March 27, 2016. The 1300 (1pm) time will allow Korean Air Lines to pick up feeding passengers from other parts of Asia. Passengers arrive in London during rush hour which with more transportation options available. The late evening schedule allows inbound flight passengers to work for half a day before reaching the airport. Arrival into Seoul allows for connection to other parts of Asia and Australia.
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Korean Air Lines configured its Airbus A380-800s into three classes (First, Prestige (Business) and Economy) with 407 seats.
The change from the Boeing to the Airbus will increase capacity by 40%. Economy class has the biggest seat increase by 84. However, larger percentage increases are found in First and Prestige Class at 50% and 67% respectively. Korean Air Lines was the first in the world to dedicate the upper deck to a business class product.
Changing aircraft types also increase the Premium Ratio (Premium Seats as a % of Total Capacity) from 26.04% to 21.99%. This means the airline’s research indicates that it can fill more high yield passengers on this route.
Premium passengers would get lounge access in London at SkyTeam’s own setup inside Terminal 4. It is the largest of the four that the airline alliance operates in the world (News – SkyTeam Opens Exclusive Lounge in Hong Kong).
Besides Korean Air Lines, its chief rival Asiana Airlines (OZ)(Star Alliance) and British Airways (BA)(oneworld) also have non-stop flights between the same city pairs. Asiana Airlines is using a Boeing 777-200ER on the route while British Airways is using a Boeing 787-8.
Pre-ungauge, the three airlines are within ten percentage points of each other for the non-stop market. Korean Air Lines using a Boeing 777-300ER leads at 39%.
Starting from March 2016, when the Airbus A380-800 is used, Korean Air Lines will increase its weekly capacity to nearly 50%. The introduction of new capacity may put pricing pressure for all airlines involved. It is likely that Korean Air Lines will offer promotional fares as part of this introduction.
Is it a similar case when it comes to the premium ratio. Korean Air Lines will have a 10% advantage over its non-stop competitors with more premium class capacity.
There are numerous European, Asian and Middle Eastern network airlines offering flights from London to Seoul. This market can be very competitive which will net better prices for passengers even before any low cost carriers enter the marketplace.