SkyTeam member Korean Air took delivery of its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in Tolouse, France a few days ago, becoming the sixth airlines in the world to operate the largest bird in the skies today. Classified on the ceremony as a “milestone” for the airline, the spacious Korean plane has the least seats of any A380 delivered so far.
The double-decker has “only” 407 seats on board, with 12 First (Kosmo) Class suites on the lower deck, followed by 301 Economy seats, with all 94 Business (Prestige) Class on the upper deck – marking the first ever full business class upper deck on any Airbus A380’s currently in operation. Besides all the seats and suites, the Korean Air A380 features two common areas: a lounge area at the back of the plane available for Premium passengers with sofa-style seating and a stand-up bar, and the world’s first onboard duty-free showcase shop. Passengers can browse, for example, samples of make-up, jewellery, sunglasses and cameras in this specially built area at the rear of the lower deck, before ordering the product(s) to take home. Some may question the choice of removing economy seats in favour of a shop, but theory suggests that there is more money to be made from duty-free sales than one might expect.
Tom Enders, Airbus’ CEO, at the handover of the superjumbo also used the term “milestone” to describe the significance of the event. “[It] marks a new milestone in the relationship between Korean Air and Airbus”, he said, a relationship that started nearly 40 years ago as Korean Air was the first airline outside Europe to order an Airbus aircraft – an A300 in 1974.
Korean Air’s A380 is powered by the Engine Alliance GP 7200 engine, which the engine manufacturer claims is the most fuel efficient option for the A380. Three of the existing A380 fleets (Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa) instead have Rolls Royce’s Trent 900 engines, while two (Emirates and Air France) use the GP 7200’s. Of the 234 A380s currently on order, 124 will have a GP7200 engine, 96 will have the RR T900, and 14 have not yet been decided on.
The maiden voyage for Korean Air’s new aircraft will be from its Seoul hub to Tokyo Narita via Hong Kong. Korean Air will take delivery of four more A380 aircraft before the end of 2011, plus a further five by the end of 2014, bringing the total to ten. The A380 will be used on flights to Bangkok from July, followed by non-stop flights to New York in August and Los Angeles in October.
The next airlines in the queue to receive their first A380 is China Southern Airlines in the second half 2011. Next year, A380 deliveries to Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways are on the list.
As of April 15, 2011, the worldwide A380 fleet had operated 270,000 flight hours on 30,000 revenue flights. Currently, there are 48 A380s in service and 234 firm orders from 17 customers.