Air Premia Plans Seoul To Los Angeles Flights

Air Premia Plans Seoul To Los Angeles Flights

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A new airline is planning on launching transpacific flights to the United States in 2022.

Air Premia plans LAX flights in 2022

Air Premia is a South Korean Airline startup that has just filed with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to request the right to operate flights to the United States. According to the filing, Air Premia hopes to launch flights between Seoul Incheon (ICN) and Los Angeles (LAX) as of the second quarter of 2022 using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

The planned frequencies or schedules haven’t yet been revealed. Suffice to say that the market between Seoul and Los Angeles is huge, and pre-pandemic, Korean Air and Asiana operated up to five daily Airbus A380s between the two airports.

Korean Air flies A380s between Seoul and Los Angeles

With Korean Air and Asiana merging, the route will soon enough only be served by one airline, so Air Premia is hoping to give customers a nonstop alternative.

What is Air Premia, anyway?

Air Premia is a new hybrid airline startup in South Korea that just got its air operator certificate a couple of weeks ago. The airline is founded by the former president of Jeju Air, which is Korea’s largest low cost carrier.

Air Premia plans on exclusively operating Boeing 787-9s, primarily on long haul routes. While the airline will initially operate domestically for familiarization and due to border restrictions, long haul flights are expected to start in 2022. The airline is considering flights to North America, Australia, and Europe. Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver, have all been named as possible destinations in North America.

Air Premia isn’t a traditional low cost carrier. The carrier’s Boeing 787-9s are in a two cabin configuration, featuring a total of 309 seats:

  • There are 56 premium economy seats, featuring 42″ of pitch
  • There are 253 economy seats, featuring 35″ of pitch (this is virtually unheard of)

When the airline was first announced, it was stated that Air Premia economy tickets would be priced at 80-90% of what Korean full service carriers charge in economy, while premium economy tickets would be priced at 140% of what Korean full service carriers charge in economy.

Here’s a video about Air Premia’s Boeing 787-9 cabins (which is odd, and for that matter they can’t even make the actor look like he finds the premium economy seat to be comfortable):

I don’t get Air Premia’s business model

I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t understand Air Premia’s business model one bit, especially when it comes to how planes have been configured. First of all, let’s keep in mind that the long haul airline business is really tough, especially for airlines without business class cabins (where most of the profits are made in many markets).

What I can’t make sense of is why Air Premia didn’t just go ultra low cost, and squeeze 375 seats on its planes. The airline would then have a legitimate cost advantage compared to competitors. Instead:

  • The airline has 35″ of pitch in economy, which is extremely generous but also not necessary, when you consider that Asiana and Korean Air otherwise have among the best legroom of global airlines
  • The layout simply isn’t efficient — for example, here you have a two cabin layout with 309 seats, while Air Canada manages to squeeze 298 seats into a three cabin layout, with 30 reverse herringbone business class seats, which has much greater revenue potential
  • Air Premia won’t be able to compete with the frequencies, connectivity, route networks, or frequent flyer programs, of Asiana and Korean Air
  • From a competitive standpoint, airlines like Asiana and Korean Air make most of their money on long haul flights from first & business class passengers, and that’s a market Air Premia isn’t trying to compete in

Personally I just don’t think the airline is differentiating itself enough to be successful and compete with the big guys. “We’ll charge 10% less and give an extra inch or two of legroom” just doesn’t seem like a great business model to me, when customers are sacrificing frequencies, a global route network, a global frequent flyer program, connecting opportunities, etc.

So while South Korea could definitely use some competition with Korean Air and Asiana merging, I’m not sure this is what the doctor ordered?

Bottom line

Air Premia plans to launch flights between Seoul and Los Angeles as of the second quarter of 2022. This is a new hybrid South Korean airline that intends to operate 787-9s primarily on long haul routes.

These planes will be in a ridiculously spacious two cabin layout, with economy seats featuring an unheard of 35″ of pitch. I’m not sure I get the business case for that, but this sounds great for consumers…

What do you make of Air Premia, and the carrier’s business model?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Sean C. Kang

    Yes, we have had deep study and analysis the market on transpacific route. we found passenger traffic on ICN/LAC more than 600K a year in 2018 and 90% traffic ends at LAX. In terms of traffic volume and contents of traffic is quite good. Korean Air and Asiana used to operate two daily service on ICN/LAX route. I don't they satisfied customer in the view point of price and service. The price of business class...

    Yes, we have had deep study and analysis the market on transpacific route. we found passenger traffic on ICN/LAC more than 600K a year in 2018 and 90% traffic ends at LAX. In terms of traffic volume and contents of traffic is quite good. Korean Air and Asiana used to operate two daily service on ICN/LAX route. I don't they satisfied customer in the view point of price and service. The price of business class is higher than 4,000 US dollars, too expensive to afford. Air Premia provide 42 inch Premium Economy with free WIFI and sophisticate inflight entertainment and personal care for only 1,600~1,800 US dollars and 35 inch very wide and comfortable economy seat by 10% lower price than Korean Airlines. Top of that Korean Airlines and Asiana will be merged to one body in two years. It is very disappointing to Korean American community in Los Angeles who have been supporting these Korea flag-ship carriers. We, Air Premia is Airlines in Korea but we have Korean American share holders who are participated in founders group of Air premia. I trust we will have an opportunities to became a successful airlines in Los Angels market who are back up by Korean American. Cheers

  2. magice

    You know, if you give me Korean Airlines service with wifi, I will fly them in a heartbeat. Well, provided they fly to SFO ;)

    1. S Lee

      Air Premia does offer inflight wifi, which is a huge advantage over the surprisingly old-fadhioned Korean Air. None of Korean Air aircrafts is equipped with wifi at all.

  3. Aman

    @Ben there are many other drivers of unit costs apart from cabin density- back-end and labor costs for one. Korean Air and Asiana both have notoriously high legacy costs- complex fleet structure for one and an infamously too heavy management structure.
    There is plenty of scope for a new nimble carrier to gain a competitive advantage while delivering a superior product to passengers.
    Moreover business travel demand is expected to remain subdued for...

    @Ben there are many other drivers of unit costs apart from cabin density- back-end and labor costs for one. Korean Air and Asiana both have notoriously high legacy costs- complex fleet structure for one and an infamously too heavy management structure.
    There is plenty of scope for a new nimble carrier to gain a competitive advantage while delivering a superior product to passengers.
    Moreover business travel demand is expected to remain subdued for quite some time and perhaps has been structurally impacted. Leisure travel is the sector that is expected to rebound and given the current discourse on social distancing, extra legroom at a 10% lesser price may be a more compelling proposition today then it was previously.
    Ultimately, their business model sounds similar to Southwest and JetBlue- a leverage cost savings through efficiency and simplification and deliver a product that maximises value for customers.
    Airline business models certainly do not need to be binary. I wouldn’t right them off just yet.

  4. Ethan

    Just like Korean Air uses 2-2-2 Apex Suite on 747, suppose Korean knows what they're doing.

  5. Austin

    This is very attractive to me, as I'm 6'4" tall. This leg room is a necessity for tall people, and the fact I don't have to pay for premium economy is even better. So long as it isn't a catastrophically bad product, I will be happy to try it out.

  6. Steven E

    I’m not sure that video does much to sell the product, very clinical and uninspiring

  7. Andrew

    Agree with other commenters. For Econ passengers, this is a great value.

  8. Steve

    Ben. How often do you fly coach? I'm assuming never, especially on a long haul like the proposed flight.

    Every inch of leg space counts. Price is a huge factor as well to the Asian community.

  9. Jkjkjk

    Delta should come in and start LAX-ICN route… who knows what will happen after KE and Asiana merger? Is delta willing to bet on the merger and continue it’s JV?
    they need to strengthen their LAX transpacific now that it’s impossible to fly to China.

  10. Jimin

    I disagree. I am 100% confident Air Premia knows what it is doing. Demand is huge between Seoul and LA, and I see potential in their business model. They must have done some sort of research and analysis that resulted in findings such as passengers do not collect/redeem miles on such route thus there is no need to create a loyalty program nor create partnerships. Plus, you mentioned that the owner is Jeju Air's ex-president....

    I disagree. I am 100% confident Air Premia knows what it is doing. Demand is huge between Seoul and LA, and I see potential in their business model. They must have done some sort of research and analysis that resulted in findings such as passengers do not collect/redeem miles on such route thus there is no need to create a loyalty program nor create partnerships. Plus, you mentioned that the owner is Jeju Air's ex-president. Jeju Air is Korea's most successful low-cost airline (fyi, Jeju had plans to acquire Eastar Jet which proves that they have confidence in their overall business) All I'm trying to say is Air Premia probably knows what it's doing. I'm sure many leisure Korean travelers would give it a go and like the idea of "more legroom and cheaper seats."

    1. David

      Agreed. This is clearly targeting the "fly once to see grandma" crowd. They don't care about frequency, connections or FFPs, they do care about a low price and a slightly better Y seat.

  11. Peer

    "while Air Canada manages to squeeze 298 seats into a three cabin layout"

    Squeezing is exactly the right word describing Air Canada's configuration - it's horrible. Would love to give Air Premia a try, especially if they have some competitive oneway flights.

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Jimin

I disagree. I am 100% confident Air Premia knows what it is doing. Demand is huge between Seoul and LA, and I see potential in their business model. They must have done some sort of research and analysis that resulted in findings such as passengers do not collect/redeem miles on such route thus there is no need to create a loyalty program nor create partnerships. Plus, you mentioned that the owner is Jeju Air's ex-president. Jeju Air is Korea's most successful low-cost airline (fyi, Jeju had plans to acquire Eastar Jet which proves that they have confidence in their overall business) All I'm trying to say is Air Premia probably knows what it's doing. I'm sure many leisure Korean travelers would give it a go and like the idea of "more legroom and cheaper seats."

Steve

Ben. How often do you fly coach? I'm assuming never, especially on a long haul like the proposed flight. Every inch of leg space counts. Price is a huge factor as well to the Asian community.

S Lee

Air Premia does offer inflight wifi, which is a huge advantage over the surprisingly old-fadhioned Korean Air. None of Korean Air aircrafts is equipped with wifi at all.

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