Korean Air: a new CEO and Korean cuts first class routes

Premium Analysis

Korean Air is considering joining a growing list of major international airlines in removing first class. Reducing, and potentially eliminating, first class represents a shift in product strategy under Korean's new CEO Walter Cho, who took over from his late father Cho Yang-ho in Apr-2019.

At the beginning of Jun-2019 the airline stopped selling a first class service on 27 international routes, although these routes are still operated with medium size widebody aircraft (A330s, older variant 777s and 787s) that are configured with a first class cabin. For now, the first class seats on these 27 routes are being sold as business class, but are expected to be removed as Korean Air embarks on a major widebody retrofit programme.

Korean Air continues to sell first class on nearly 40 international routes, including all routes operated by A380s, 747-8s and 777-300ERs. However, the airline is also considering removing first class from these three large widebody aircraft types as part of future retrofits, potentially resulting in a consistent two class product across its international network.

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