South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines will launch regional passenger operations with the Airbus A380 in the middle of June and will then deploy the aircraft on its scheduled route between Seoul Incheon and Los Angeles from August this year. The carrier will be the eleventh operator of the Super Jumbo and is due to receive its first aircraft in the second quarter of this year with two more due in 2015 and the final two aircraft set to arrive in 2017.
The airline revealed its draft operational plans for the A380 earlier this year, but it has not opened reservations for the aircraft with initial flights due to commence on June 13, 2014. The A380s, which will be configured in a 495-seat arrangement with 12 first class suites, 66 business class and 417 economy seats, will initially be used on the Seoul Incheon – Tokyo Narita and Soeul Incheon – Hong Kong routes that day before entering service on routes from Seoul Incheon to Osaka Kansai International and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi from July 24, 2014 and July 25, 2014, respectively following the arrival of the second unit.
After the initial regional crew familiarisation flights, the type will be permanently deployed on the Seoul Incheon – Los Angeles route and will operate one of its two daily rotations from August 15, 2014. Asiana currently offers a twice daily schedule between Seoul Incheon and Los Angeles using Boeing 747-400 and 777-200ER equipment.
The A380 will replace the 747-400 service and will see Asiana go into direct competition with its rival, Korean Air, which already deploys its own A380s on the route. The South Korean national carrier offers 17 weekly flights including a twice daily A380 link and a three times weekly 777-300ER rotation: it will add a further two weekly flights from June 1, 2014.
Asiana’s own operations are supported by its Star Alliance partner Thai Airways International which also offers three weekly flights on the route having ended its non-stop link between Bangkok and Los Angeles last year. Together the two airlines account for 48.9 per cent of the O&D demand, versus the 36.5 per cent held by SkyTeam member Korean Air. A closer look at each of the alliances shows that Star Alliance had a 56.9 per cent share of O&D demand on the route in 2013 ahead of SkyTeam (38.5 per cent) and Oneworld (3.1 per cent). In 2013 an estimated 540,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew on the route.
Asiana has not yet confirmed the proposed deployment of its remianing A380s, although it has said the aircraft will be used to boost capacity on existing routes and will enable other aircraft to be used to open up new services in the future. The next two A380s are due in the first half of 2015 and will likely be used on the Seoul Incheon – New York route, with the last two aircraft possibly being utilised on links to Europe when they are delivered in 2017.
In our analysis below we look at how the deployment of A380s on the Seoul Incheon – Los Angeles route since 2011 has increased the available capacity on offer and although the available seats total declined in 2013, it still remained the second highest figure ever offered on the route. This year the number of seats is forecasted to rise to over 630,000, up 4.6 per cent on last year and a new capacity record.