Korean Air
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Korean Air

Korean Air
Daehan Hanggong
KoreanAir logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedJune 1962; 60 years ago (1962-06) (as Korean Air Lines)
Commenced operations1 March 1969; 53 years ago (1969-03-01)
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programSKYPASS
  • Air Korea
  • Air Total Service
  • CyberSky
  • Global Logistics System Korea
  • HIST
  • Jin Air
  • Korea Airport Service
Fleet size163[2]
Parent companyHanjin Group
Traded asKRX: 003490
HeadquartersGonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Key peopleWalter Cho (Chairman & CEO)
RevenueIncrease US $11.2 billion (2020)[3]
Operating incomeIncrease US $228 million (2020)[3]
Net incomeDecrease US -$539.4 million (2020)[3]
Total assetsIncrease US $23.4 billion (2020)[3]
Korean name
Revised RomanizationDaehan Hanggong
McCune-ReischauerTaehan Hanggong

Korean Air Co., Ltd. (Korean? ?; Hanja? ?; RRJusikhoesa Daehan Hanggong), operating as Korean Air (Korean Air Lines before 1984), is the largest airline and flag carrier of South Korea based on fleet size, international destinations and international flights. The airline's global headquarters is located in Seoul, South Korea. The present-day Korean Air was established on March 1, 1969, after the Hanjin Group acquired government-owned Korean Air Lines, which had operated since June 1962. Even though Korean Air is owned by Hanjin Group, it is majority controlled by Hanjin KAL Corporation, The owner family of Hanjin Group is still the airline's largest and controlling, shareholder; Cho Won-tae (Walter Cho), its current chairman and CEO, is the third generation of the family to lead the airline. As of 5 June 2020, Hanjin KAL holds 29.27% of Korean Air shares.[4] Korean Air is a founding member of the airline alliance SkyTeam and SkyTeam Cargo.

Korean Air's international passenger division and related subsidiary cargo division together serve 126 cities in 44 countries, while its domestic division serves 13 destinations. It is among the top 20 airlines in the world in terms of passengers carried and is also one of the top-ranked international cargo airlines. Incheon International Airport Terminal 2 and Gimhae International Airport as Korean Air's international hub. Korean Air also maintains a satellite headquarters campus at Incheon. The majority of Korean Air's pilots, ground staff, and flight attendants are based in Seoul and Busan. The airline had approximately 20,540 employees as of December 2014.[5]


A Korean National Airlines Douglas DC-4 at Oakland in 1953
KAL introduction of the Boeing 747 for its international Pacific routes in 1973


In 1962, government of the Republic of Korea acquired Korean National Airlines, which was founded in 1946 and changed name as Korean Air Lines to become a state-owned airline. On 1 March 1969, the Hanjin Group acquired the state-owned airline and it is the beginning of Korean Air.[6][7] Long-haul trans-pacific freight operations were introduced on April 26, 1971, followed by passenger services to Los Angeles International Airport on April 19, 1972.[8]


Korean Air operated international flights to destinations such as Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Los Angeles with Boeing 707s until the introduction of the Boeing 747 in 1973. In that year, the airline introduced Boeing 747s on its trans-Pacific routes and started a European service to Paris, France using the 707 and then McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In 1975, the airline became one of the earliest Asian airlines to operate Airbus aircraft with the purchase of three Airbus A300s, which were put into immediate service on Asian routes.[9] In 1981, Korean Air opens own cargo terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.[6] Since South Korean aircraft were prohibited from flying in the airspace of North Korea and the Soviet Union at the time, the European routes had to be designed eastbound from South Korea, such as Seoul ~ Anchorage ~ Paris.

Change to 'Korean Air'

A blue-top, silver and redesigned livery with a new corporate "Korean Air" logo featuring a stylized Taegeuk design was introduced on March 1, 1984, and the airline's name changed to Korean Air from Korean Air Lines. This livery was introduced on its MD-80s and Boeing 747-300s. It was designed in cooperation between Korean Air and Boeing. In the 1990s, Korean Air became the first airline to use the new McDonnell Douglas MD-11 to supplement its new fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft; however, the MD-11 did not meet the airline's performance requirements and they were eventually converted to freighters. Some older 747 aircraft were also converted for freight service. In the 1984, Korean Air's head office was in the KAL Building on Namdaemunno, Jung-gu, Seoul.[6][7][10]

Korean Air takes delivery of its first Airbus A380 at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, France, May 25, 2011.

Early 21st century and further expansion

On 23 June 2000, along with Aeroméxico, Air France and Delta Air Lines, Korean Air founded world's major airline alliance, SkyTeam and SkyTeam Cargo, founded on 28 September 2000.[11][12]

On June 5, 2007, Korean Air said that it would create a new low-cost carrier called Jin Air in Korea to compete with Korea's KTX high-speed railway network system, which offered cheaper fares and less stringent security procedures compared to air travel. Jin Air started its scheduled passenger service from Seoul to Jeju on July 17, 2008. Korean Air announced that some of its 737s and A300s would be given to Jin Air.

By 2009, Korean Air's image had become more prestigious, differing from the airline's late-1990s image, which had been tarnished by several fatal accidents.[13]

In mid-2010, a co-marketing deal with games company Blizzard Entertainment sent a 747-400 and a 737-900 taking to the skies wrapped in StarCraft II branding. In August 2010, Korean Air announced heavy second-quarter losses despite record-high revenue.[14] In August 2010, Hanjin Group, the parent of Korean, opened a new cargo terminal at Navoi in Uzbekistan, which will become a cargo hub with regular Incheon-Navoi-Milan flights.[15]

Korean Air owns five hotels: two KAL hotels on Jeju island, the Hyatt in Incheon; Waikiki Resort in Hawaii, and a hotel/office building called the Wilshire Grand Tower in Los Angeles. This building in downtown Los Angeles houses the largest InterContinental Hotel in the Americas in what is the tallest building in Los Angeles.[16]

In 2013, Korean Air acquired a 44% stake in Czech Airlines.[17] It sold the stake in October 2017. On May 1, 2018, the airline launched a joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines.[18]

In November 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Korean Government officially announced that Korean Air will acquire Asiana Airlines.[19] Korea Development Bank, a state-owned bank, will provide 800 bilion won to Hanjin Group to help finance the merger between the airlines.[19] The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea will integrate subsidiaries Air Busan, Air Seoul and Jin Air to form a combined low-cost carrier which will focus on regional airports in Korea.[20]

In March 2021, KAL announced the merger with Asiana Airlines will be delayed as foreign authorities have not approved the deal. Due to the delay, Asiana Airlines will be operated as subsidiary in which the airline's operations, IT and other systems will be operated by Korean Air until 2024.[21][22] After the merger is approved and completed, Asiana Airlines could become member of SkyTeam.[23] Since 9 September, Turkey has approved the antitrust deal, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam has approved the merger.[24][25] On June 30, it is reported that the post-merger plans between two airlines have been finalized and approved by Korea Development Bank.[26][27][28] Korea Fair Trade Commission approved the merger on 22 February 2022, under condition of the airline must give up some of their airport slots and transportation rights of certain regions.[29][30][31] As of 2022, other essential countries such as China, Japan, and the United States have not given their approval.[32]

And for non-essential countries, in June 2021, the Philippines is the first country to approved.[33] On September, Malaysian authority also approved on the antitrust deal, thus Malaysia officially joined Turkey on the list of countries that approved the antitrust deal between the two airlines.[34][35]

Corporate affairs and identity

One of the airline's offices, the KAL Building in Seoul

Korean Air's headquarters (? [36]) is located in Gonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu in Seoul. Korean Air also has offices at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul. Korean Air's other hubs are at Jeju International Airport, Jeju and Gimhae International Airport, Busan.[8] The maintenance facilities are located in Gimhae International Airport.


Korean Air serves 126 international destinations in 44 countries on 5 continents, excluding codeshares. The airline's international hub is Incheon International Airport Terminal 2. The airline also flies to 13 domestic destinations. The airline operates between Incheon and 22 cities in mainland China, and along with Asiana Airlines, it is one of the two largest foreign airlines to operate into the People's Republic of China.[37]

Codeshare agreements

Korean Air has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[38][39]

Interline agreements

Korean Air has interline agreements with the following airlines:

Korean Air is also an airline partner of Skywards, the frequent-flyer program for Emirates. Skywards members can earn miles for flying Korean Air and can redeem miles for free flights.


Current fleet

As of May 2022, Korean Air operates the following aircraft:[46][47][48][49]

A Korean Air Airbus A380-800 on approach
A Korean Air Airbus A380-800
A Korean Air Boeing 747-8I taxiing
A Korean Air Boeing 747-8I
A Korean Air Boeing 787-9 taxiing
A Korean Air Boeing 787-9
A Korean Air Boeing 737-900 on approach
A Korean Air Boeing 737-900
A Korean Air Airbus A220-300 taxiing
A Korean Air Airbus A220-300
Korean Air fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
F P E Total
Airbus A220-300 10 140 140 Order with 10 options and 10 purchase rights.[50]
Airbus A321neo 30 TBA Order with 20 options.[51]
Airbus A330-200 8 30 188 218 Launch customer.
Airbus A330-300 22 24 248 272
24 252 276
24 260 284
Airbus A380-800 10 12 94 301 407 To be retired by 2026.[52]
Boeing 737-800 2 12 126 138
Boeing 737-900 10 8 180 188
Boeing 737-900ER 6 8 165 173
Boeing 737 MAX 8 3 27 8 138 146 Order with 20 options.[53]
Delivery starts from 2022.[54]
Boeing 747-8I 9 6 48 314 368 To be retired by 2031.[52]
Boeing 777-200ER 12 8 28 225 261
Boeing 777-300 4 6 35 297 338
Boeing 777-300ER 25 8 42 227 277
8 56 227 291
Boeing 787-9 10 10[55] 24 245 269 Order with 10 options.[56]
Order was converted from 787-8.[57][58]
Boeing 787-10 20[55] TBA Deliveries planned to start from 2022.[59]
Korean Air Cargo fleet
Boeing 747-400ERF 4 Cargo
Boeing 747-8F 7 Cargo
Boeing 777F 12 Cargo
Korean Air Business Jet fleet[60][61]
AgustaWestland AW139 4 8-14
Boeing 737-700/BBJ1 1 16-26
Boeing 787-8/BBJ 1 39 [62][63]
Bombardier Global Express XRS 1 13
Gulfstream G650ER 1 13 [64]
Sikorsky S-76+ 1 5-6
Total 164 86

Retired fleet

Korean Air has operated the following aircraft:[65][66][67][68][69]

A Korean Air Airbus A300-600R
A Korean Air Boeing 707-320C
A Korean Air Boeing 747-300
A Korean Air Boeing 747SP
Korean Air retired fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Replacement Notes
Airbus A300B4-2C 8 1975 1997 Airbus A330
Airbus A300B4-200F 2 1986 2000 None
Airbus A300-600R 28 1987 2012 Airbus A330
2 Converted into freighters and transferred to Korean Air Cargo
Airbus A300-600RF 2 2015 2015 None
Boeing 707-320B 4 1971 1989 Boeing 747-200B
1 1978 None Shot down as flight KE902
Boeing 707-320C 7 1971 1989 Boeing 747-200B
1 1987 None Destroyed as flight KE858
Boeing 720 2 1969 1976 Boeing 747-200B
Boeing 727-100 5 1972 1985 McDonnell Douglas MD-80
Boeing 727-200 12 1980 1996 McDonnell Douglas MD-80
Boeing 737-700/BBJ1 1 2008 2018 None
Boeing 737-800 3 2007 2021 Airbus A220-300
22 2000 2022 Transferred to subsidiary Jin Air.
Boeing 737-900 4 2001 2022 None
2 Transferred to subsidiary Jin Air.
Boeing 747-200B 9 1978 1998 Boeing 747-400
2 Converted into freighters and transferred to Korean Air Cargo
1 1983 None Shot down as flight KE007
1 1980 Destroyed as flight KE015
Boeing 747-200C 2 1973 2000 None
Boeing 747-200F 7 1978 2006 Boeing 747-400F
1 1999 None Crashed as flight KE8509
Boeing 747-200SF 2 1991 2002 Boeing 747-400F
Boeing 747-300 1 1984 2006 Boeing 747-400
1 1997 None Crashed as flight KE801
Boeing 747-300M 1 1988 2001 Boeing 747-400M Converted into freighters and transferred to Korean Air Cargo
Boeing 747-300SF 1 2001 2006 Boeing 747-400F
Boeing 747-400 17 1995 2020 Boeing 747-8I
Boeing 777-300ER
8 2007 Converted into freighters and transferred to Korean Air Cargo
1 1998 None Crashed as flight KE8702
1 2001 2010 Leased to Republic of Korea Air Force for VIP transport until 2021[70]
Boeing 747-400BCF 8 2007 2014 Boeing 777F
Boeing 747-400ERF 4 2003 2017 Boeing 777F
Boeing 747-400F 10 1996 2018 Boeing 777F
Boeing 747-400M 1 1990 2010 Boeing 777-300ER
Boeing 747-8I 1 2017 2021 None Leased to Republic of Korea Air Force for VIP transport[71]
Boeing 747SP 2 1981 1998 Boeing 777-200ER
Boeing 777-200ER 2 1997 2020 Boeing 787-9
4 2005 2016 Transferred to subsidiary Jin Air.
Boeing 777-300ER 1 2009 2021 None
Bombardier Global Express XRS 2 2011 2017 None
CASA C-212 1 1980 2000 None
Douglas DC-3 2 1950 1970 Un­known
Douglas DC-4 2 1953 1969 Un­known
Douglas DC-8-60 6 1972 1976 Boeing 707
Eurocopter EC135-P2+ 5 2011 2018 None
Eurocopter EC155-B1 2 2004 2018 None
Fairchild-Hiller FH-227 2 1967 1970 NAMC YS-11A-200
Fokker F27-200 3 1963 1980 Fokker F27-500
Fokker F27-500 3 1969 1991 Fokker F28-4000
Fokker F27-600 1 1982 1986 Fokker F28-4000
Fokker F28-4000 4 1984 1993 Fokker 100
Fokker 100 12 1992 2004 Boeing 737 Next Generation
Gulfstream IV 1 1994 2012 Boeing BBJ1
Lockheed L-749A Constellation Un­known Un­known Un­known None
Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation 2 1966 1967 None
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 2 1967 1972 Boeing 727
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 4 1975 1996 McDonnell Douglas MD-11
1 1989 None Crashed as flight KE803
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30CF 1 1978 1983 None
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 5 1991 1995 Airbus A330
Boeing 777
Converted into freighters and transferred to Korean Air Cargo
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 4 1995 2005 Boeing 747-400BCF
1 1999 None Crashed as flight KE6316
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 9 1993 2001 Boeing 737 Next Generation
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 7 1994 2001 Boeing 737 Next Generation
1 1999 None Crashed as flight KE1533
NAMC YS-11A-200 6 1968 1976 Boeing 727
1 1969 None Hijacked and captured by North Korea

Fleet plans

At the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines Assembly in 2018, Korean Air announced that it was considering a new large widebody aircraft order to replace older Airbus A330, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-200ER and Boeing 777-300. Types under consideration for replacement of older widebody aircraft in the fleet include the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350 XWB.[72]

At the International Air Transport Association Annual General Meeting (IATA AGM) in Seoul, Chairman Walter Cho said Korean Air's widebody order is imminent and it is considering an extra order of Airbus A220 Family including developing version, Airbus A220-500.[73]

Aircraft interiors

Korean Air Airbus A380-800 Business Class cabin
Korean Air Airbus A380-800 Economy Class cabin

Korean Air currently offers three types of first class, four types of business (Prestige) class, and standard economy class.[74]

First Class

First Class seats include "Kosmo Suites 2.0" seats on all Boeing 747-8I and many 777-300ER models. "Kosmo Suites" seats are fitted on most of the Airbus A380-800 fleet as well as some of the Boeing 777-200ER and -300ER fleet; the differences between "Kosmo Suites 2.0" and "Kosmo Suites" is that "Kosmo Suites 2.0" has a sliding door to provide the passenger with better privacy. Some Boeing 777-300ER models are fitted with the newer "Kosmo Suites 2.0". "Kosmo Sleeper" seats are fitted on some Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. "Sleeper" first class seats are older than Kosmo First Class models and are equipped on Boeing 747-400 and later Boeing 777-300 models.

Prestige Class

Prestige Class seats include new "Prestige Suites" that focus on the design of the Apex Suites. This business class model is equipped on all Boeing 747-8i and 787-9, as well as most 777-300ER aircraft. "Prestige Sleeper" seats are fitted on some Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A380s, as well as 777-200ER aircraft that feature "Kosmo Suites" first class seats; "Prestige Plus" seats are fitted on most of the Boeing 777-200ER fleet, most of the Boeing 747-400 fleet, and one Boeing 777-300; "Old Prestige Class" seats are currently being phased out in aircraft that are equipped with it (with the exception of the Boeing 737 family). "Prestige Sleeper" and "Prestige Suites" seats recline to 180 degrees, while "Prestige Plus" seats recline up to 172 degrees. "Old Prestige Class" seats recline up to 138 degrees.

Premium Economy Class

On 27 December 2017, CEO of Korean Air, Won-Tae Cho said to consider to introduce Premium Economy Class.[75] In that result, Korean Air introduced its first Premium Economy Class named "Economy Plus" on its CS300 (Airbus A220-300). It features seats that are 4 inches wider than standard economy class seats.[76] However, on 10 June 2019, Korean Air announced it would discontinue "Economy Plus"; it will be reassigned to economy class due to discordance of service and profit loss.[77][78]

Economy Class

Economy Class seats recline up to 121 degrees. A new type of seat called "New Economy Class" is being installed on all Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with Kosmo Suites, all Boeing 777-300 aircraft, some Airbus A330-300 aircraft, some Airbus A330-200 aircraft, the Airbus A380 aircraft (factory-installed), and brand new Boeing 747-8i aircraft. The "Kosmo Suites" seats and the "Prestige Sleeper" seats were first introduced in the Boeing 777-300ERs in May 2009.[79] Both seats could stretch to 180 degrees, and became more private than seats before. They are more comfy than most airline seats and therefore have more room for a long hull flight

Loyalty program

SKYPASS is the frequent-flyer program of Korean Air. "SKYPASS" also refers to the blue card which Korean Air frequent-flyers are given. The motto of SKYPASS is "Beyond your Imagination". The program's elite levels are comparable to those of other airlines' frequent-flyer programs, requiring members to fly 30,000 miles per two-year cycle (initial entry into this level requires 50,000 miles). Qualification for the highest level is based on lifetime flight miles, requiring a customer to fly 1 million miles for Million Miler, which is the highest elite status; or 500,000 miles for Morning Calm Premium, which comes second. Both membership levels are eligible for SkyTeam Elite Plus privileges. Membership in these levels are granted for life.

Korean Air members' club was named Morning Calm, as a reference to South Korea's tradition. Since 1886, when a book written by Percival Lowell obtained large success in the United States in narrating the history of Korea, the country started to be internationally referred as "the Land of Morning calm",[80] and its ruling monarchy the Joseon, became known abroad as the "Morning Dynasty".


In 2019, Korean Air began playing a safety video with the Kpop group SuperM.[81] It featured the song "Let's go everywhere," which was to be released as a single.[82]

Following SuperM's safety video feature, Korean Air also advertised the group through a livery sported by a Boeing 777-300ER, with registration HL8010.[83] The livery is a picture of the group's seven members with the group's name logo below it, and is situated at the aft part of the aircraft.[83][84]

Aerospace research and manufacturing

Korean Air is also involved in aerospace research and manufacturing. The division, known as the Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD), has manufactured licensed versions of the MD Helicopters MD 500 and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, as well as the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighter aircraft,[85] the aft fuselage and wings for the KF-16 fighter aircraft manufactured by Korean Aerospace Industries and parts for various commercial aircraft including the Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner; and the Airbus A330 and Airbus A380.[86] In 1991 the division designed and flew the Korean Air Chang-Gong 91 light aircraft. KAA also provides aircraft maintenance support for the United States Department of Defense in Asia and maintains a research division with focuses on launch vehicles, satellites, commercial aircraft, military aircraft, helicopters and simulation systems.[87]

In October 2012, a development deal between Bombardier Aerospace and a government-led South Korean consortium was announced, aiming to develop a 90-seat turboprop regional airliner, targeting a 2019 launch date. The consortium would have included Korea Aerospace Industries and Korean Air.[88] While this plan did not come to fruition, in 2019, Korean Aerospace Industries nevertheless decided to conduct a two-year study to assess the feasibility of taking the lead on building a turboprop airliner.[89]

Incidents and accidents

Korean Air previously had a poor safety record and was once one of the world's most dangerous airlines.[90][91] Between 1970 and 1999, many fatal incidents occurred, during which time 16 aircraft were written off in serious incidents and accidents with the loss of 700 lives. Two Korean Air aircraft were shot down by the Soviet Union, one operating as Korean Air Lines Flight 902 and the other as Korean Air Lines Flight 007. Korean Air's deadliest incident was Flight 007 which was shot down by the Soviet Union on September 1, 1983. All 269 people on board were killed, including a sitting U.S. Congressman, Larry McDonald. The last fatal passenger accident was the Korean Air Flight 801 crash in 1997, which killed 228 people. The last crew fatalities were in the crash of Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 in December 1999.[92]

Controversy and criticism

Chaebol and nepotism

Korean Air has been cited as one of the examples of the South Korean "chaebol" system, wherein corporate conglomerates, established with government support, overreach diverse branches of industry. For much of the time between the foundation of Korean Air as Korean National Airlines in 1946 and the foundation of Asiana Airlines in 1988, Korean Air was the only airline operating in South Korea. The process of privatization of Korean National Airlines in 1969 was supported by Park Chung-hee, the South Korean military general-president who seized power of the country through a military coup d'état; and the monopoly of the airline was secured for two decades. After widening the Jaebeol branches, the subsidiary corporations of Korean Air include marine and overland transportation businesses, hotels and real estate among others; and the previous branches included heavy industry, passenger transportation, construction and a stockbroking business. The nature of the South Korean chaebeol system involves nepotism. A series of incidents involving Korean Air in 2000s have "revealed an ugly side of the culture within chaebeols, South Korean's giant family-run conglomerates".[93]

Nut rage incident

Cho Hyun-Ah, also known as "Heather Cho", is the daughter of then-chairman Cho Yang-ho. She resigned from some of her duties in late 2014 after she ordered a Korean Air jet to return to the gate to allow a flight attendant to be removed from the aircraft. The attendant had served Cho nuts in a bag instead of on a plate. As a result of further fallout, Cho Hyun-Ah was later arrested by Korean authorities for violating South Korea's aviation safety laws.[94]

See also


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