Korean Air will initially introduce the Boeing 787-9 into commercial operations on domestic flights from the end of the first quarter of 2017 for crew familiarisation, according to latest schedule changes highlighted by Airlineroute. The Dreamliner will be configured in a three-class seating arrangement and are expected to be mainly used in thinner long-haul markets complementing to Asian carrier’s larger 747-8I, 777-300ER and Airbus A380 equipment.
In the latest update of its 2017 flight inventory, Korean Air will introduce the 787-9 on its Seoul Gimpo – Jeju route between March 7, 2017 and March 25, 2017. The aircraft will serve the domestic link on a three times daily basis to ensure crew can secure required flight hours on the airframe ahead of its international debut. It is not clear when the airline will introduce the type into foreign markets, however, it has already loaded the type on three international routes from the second half of the year.
This will see the 787-9 operate three weekly flights between Seoul Incheon and Madrid and four weekly flights between Seoul Incheon and Beijing from the start of August. The aircraft will also substitute an A330-200 on a three weekly Seoul Incheon – Zurich link from October 3, 2017.
The Asian carrier has chosen to retain a First Class product onboard the aircraft, according to its aircraft listing, with a small six-seat Premium cabin. It will also fit its aircraft with an 18-seat Business Class cabin and 245 Economy seat to provide a total occupancy for 269 passengers.
Korean Air has eleven 787s on order, including a single 787-8 which will be used in a corporate configuration for government flying. The aircraft was among on the first production aircraft, dubbed the ‘terrible teens’ which are much heavier than current production aircraft due to significant retrofits that are now incorporated into original assembly.
Nine of its ten 787-9s on order were originally ordered as 787-8 and first due for delivery in 2011, but the order was switched in March that year for the larger variant and deliveries pushed back to this year. An additional order for a single aircraft was added in October 2013, according to Boeing.
The initial European route selection for the Dreamliner suggests a move to use the aircraft to right-size capacity to better meet demand. The Seoul Incheon – Madrid route is currently served by a larger 777-300ER, but the introduction of flights to Barcelona from April 2017 may see demand fall a little into the Spanish capital. Meanwhile, in the case of Seoul Incheon – Zurich, the 787-9 will replace an A330-200, retaining a three-class offer but boosting capacity by around 50 seats per flight, albeit with a 25 per cent reduction in Business Class capacity.