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.
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?
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?