Korean Air Reveals A380 & 747-8 Retirement Plans

Korean Air Reveals A380 & 747-8 Retirement Plans

24

As reported by FlightGlobal, Korean Air’s CEO has revealed plans for the airline to retire its entire four engine fleet. On the plus side, at least the planes have a bit of life left in them, unlike at some other airlines.

Korean Air retiring Airbus A380s within five years

Korean Air intends to retire its Airbus A380 fleet within five years, which means we shouldn’t expect the planes beyond 2026. With Korean Air and Asiana merging, this has implications for the fleets of both carriers, since they both operate A380s:

  • Korean Air has a fleet of 10 Airbus A380s, which are an average of 9.2 years old
  • Asiana has a fleet of six Airbus A380s, which are an average of 6.3 years old

With the planes having been taken delivery of between 2011 and 2016, they’d be anywhere from 10-15 years old when they are retired in 2026. On the plus side, Korean Air’s A380 fleet will live on longer than the A380 fleets of Air FranceEtihad AirwaysLufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, and Thai Airways.

Now, Asiana and Korean Air have grounded most of their A380s during the pandemic, so one can’t help but wonder how much flying these planes still have left in them, even if they’re not retired immediately. The demand recovery in Asia is very, very slow as of now, so I can’t imagine there will be much demand for these birds in the coming months.

Asiana & Korean Air will retire A380s within five years

Korean Air retiring Boeing 747-8s within 10 years

The Boeing 747 will always be the queen of the skies (well, as long as there are any of them flying), and Korean Air is one of only three passenger airlines (along with Air China and Lufthansa) to fly the latest generation of the plane, which is the Boeing 747-8.

Korean Air intends to retire its Boeing 747-8 fleet within 10 years, which means we shouldn’t expect the planes beyond 2031. With the A380s retiring by 2026, the 747-8 will become Korean Air’s new flagship aircraft for a period of five years (as it should, given the superior onboard product compared to the A380).

Korean Air has a fleet of nine 747-8s, which the carrier took delivery of between 2012 and 2017. So by 2031, some of these planes could be nearly 20 years old.

Korean Air’s beautiful 747-8 first class cabin

The end of Korean Air first class?

While we’re still a decade from this potentially happening, it seems like we could eventually see Korean Air eliminating first class altogether:

  • Korean Air has more or less eliminated first class on all of its planes other than the A380 and 747-8; in the past the airline had first class on many 777s, 787s, and A330s, but that’s now being sold as business class
  • Korean Air doesn’t have any other large “flagship” aircraft on order, where it’s likely we’d see a new first class product
  • Ultimately we’re still a decade from the 747-8 being retired, so I imagine in that timeframe we could see Korean Air order something like the 777X for fleet renewal

Still, I do think it’s at least worth mentioning that in theory Korean Air has no plans to have any sort of a first class product a decade from now.

Korean Air’s A380 first class cabin

Bottom line

Korean Air plans to retire its A380 fleet within five years (by 2026) and its 747 fleet within 10 years (by 2031), marking the end of four engine service for the airline. I have mixed feelings about this news — I’m happy to see Korean Air doesn’t plan on retiring any fleet type with immediate effect (as we’ve seen at other airlines), but it’s also sad to consider the possible end of these two awesome planes.

A lot can change in the next decade, so I’m curious to see how this evolves…

What do you make of Korean Air’s quad jet update?

(Tip of the hat to SINJim)

Conversations (24)
Newest comments are displayed first.

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Caiden

    It is sad to see these a380s and 747-8s to be retired in the desert.

  2. Caiden

    Why do Airlines have to retire more and more and more a380s they are conducting on more fuel efficient for example Qatar airways and etc.the
    airline industry is mostly relying solely on much more fuel efficient aircraft and engines. For example the a350 the 787 the a330neo the a321xlr the a320neo and etc. But even though.it is sad to see these jumbos retired in the desert

  3. Dominic Yeo

    With all the SkyTeam members parroting the same thing, even I'm starting to believe AIRFRANCE lied.

    That said, the one who really is in desperate need of an A380 fleet is Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific is realistically not going to have a well funcitoning Hong Kong International Airport as work is done to literally join

  4. Douglas DeNunzio

    The correct questions of being in able times are to go through a 747-400 when we go through the whole procedures of the go through procedure to get through the whole question of the aircraft.

  5. Eboot

    Ben, about the first class product, you forgot to mention the 777-300 ER, and particularly the recent ones (all those delivered between 2014 and last year) which have the same seats as the 747-8i.

  6. Roni Walakandou

    What about Asiana's B747 fleet? Is there a plan on what to do about them?

  7. Douglas DeNunzio

    The planes of the a380s S well as the 747-400s of the old past the go to through the aircraft of the 2909.

  8. guri S

    having worked on 747, I feel biased towards this aircraft.

    will have to use Alaska miles to fly them roundtrip in Business class.

  9. Jkjkjk

    Delta and KE let me use my skypesos on first class!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Eskimo

      They do, but only in domestic, hahahahaha.

  10. AYL

    this makes me incredibly sad. i was happy and proud the motherland's two main carriers flew the A380 through ICN, the/a gateway to Asia and with lots of traffic/demand from/to LAX, i thought the A380 would be here to stay but now i'm crying tears that there will be 16 less A380's in the sky very soon

    1. Mode

      and Yuna Kim is a badass princess

  11. Apso Eyot

    This decision is surprising and does not make much sense to me. I thought Korean would be a sure bet to be in the category of "A380 is here to stay for the foreseeable future", just like EK, SQ, BA, QF, and probably CZ. It felt like the A380 was their flagship plane. The thing that helps KE, and not every major airline, is that there are certain places overseas with such a large concentration...

    This decision is surprising and does not make much sense to me. I thought Korean would be a sure bet to be in the category of "A380 is here to stay for the foreseeable future", just like EK, SQ, BA, QF, and probably CZ. It felt like the A380 was their flagship plane. The thing that helps KE, and not every major airline, is that there are certain places overseas with such a large concentration of Koreans (people & businesses) that those places can pretty much guarantee consistently high passenger volumes on their flights, with O&D traffic alone. For instance, the huge Korean diaspora in the Los Angeles area was capable of filling 3 to 4 daily A380s on ICN-LAX before COVID. The Korean diaspora in the New York area isn't much smaller, and could fill 1-2 A380s each way on ICN-JFK before COVID. Okay, I'm pretty sure Delta helped Korean with some feed, and maybe same with United and Asiana (at LAX), but I'm under the impression that it is primarily the huge O&D that's made the A380 the best choice for these two routes. I thought these kinds of routes are what Korean initially ordered the A380 for and that it would continue make the A380 work well for them even beyond 2026. Not to mention that they are merging with Asiana, which too flew A380s and had a large presence to places like LAX and JFK, and they need to address the extra capacity resulting from that. Now that the A380s and 747-8s will be gone, it seems like they will need to jack up the frequency a ton to adequately serve the places that saw them.

    Before they announced this, I could see the new Korean Air keeping at least 7-8 A380s for the foreseeable future and running them on ICN-LAX and ICN-JFK, along with maybe ICN-SYD (winter) and ICN-ATL (summer). If anything, they should have used the travel downturn as an opportunity to update the interiors of their A380s, which have an outdated first and business class. Even the Apex Suite that they now have on their 777s would be an improvement over the 2-2-2 they have in business on the A380, and it would make the product consistent. Their plan to retire them in 2026 pretty much assures that they will do nothing to update their A380 interiors before then. Just like Air France and Lufthansa. And with the 747-8, it was never exactly clear what their plan was with it. Did they even fly it on any routes besides ICN-ATL and ICN-YVR, after no longer flying it on ICN-SFO?

    1. Ralph4878

      The 747 was/is much more comfortable, IMO, on KE than the A380 - the J upstairs on the 747, in particular, blew J out of the water on the A380. So, if we are thinking about revenue here, I can imagine part of their calculus being, "Do we want to rehab J on the A380 so when this pandemic is all over we can have a competitive product?" I cannot imagine the answer would be...

      The 747 was/is much more comfortable, IMO, on KE than the A380 - the J upstairs on the 747, in particular, blew J out of the water on the A380. So, if we are thinking about revenue here, I can imagine part of their calculus being, "Do we want to rehab J on the A380 so when this pandemic is all over we can have a competitive product?" I cannot imagine the answer would be yes if they eventually want to drop these planes when the 747 is nicer and the 777 is pretty much the same product as the A380 but more efficient for them in the long run.

  12. S_LEE

    I believe Korean Air will convert its 747-8i fleet to freighters in 10 years and fly them another decade or more.
    They're one of the airlines with the highest freighter fleet ratio.

    1. Eskimo

      Too bad the A380 design was bad, otherwise an A380F would have been nice conversion too.

  13. Eskimo

    A 747 retirement plan 10 years from now and no replacement plan is just rubbish. I'm pretty sure if travel grows 3x pre pandemic in 10 years, their 747 will be flying for a long time.

    This is just stupid propaganda to satisfy Greta.

    And don't be so sure about Korean Air’s A380 fleet will live on longer than Malaysia Airlines, and Thai Airways.
    Those two airlines are notorious for mismanagement and stupid decisions....

    A 747 retirement plan 10 years from now and no replacement plan is just rubbish. I'm pretty sure if travel grows 3x pre pandemic in 10 years, their 747 will be flying for a long time.

    This is just stupid propaganda to satisfy Greta.

    And don't be so sure about Korean Air’s A380 fleet will live on longer than Malaysia Airlines, and Thai Airways.
    Those two airlines are notorious for mismanagement and stupid decisions. Did I mention government intervention yet? Those A380 will never be sold below the asking price (which maybe x2 market price).

    Look at MH 777s and TG 340s, no buyer for years.

  14. Michael D

    Even before the pandemic these behemoths were destined to fail. While flying them full made them percentages more economical than their smaller cousins, flying them empty was times more costly. If the world's airports had the crowding conditions due to population and politics as eg LHR then they would have succeeded. But most of the world does not and prefers more smaller flights vs less large ones.

    There was a time when travel bloggers would...

    Even before the pandemic these behemoths were destined to fail. While flying them full made them percentages more economical than their smaller cousins, flying them empty was times more costly. If the world's airports had the crowding conditions due to population and politics as eg LHR then they would have succeeded. But most of the world does not and prefers more smaller flights vs less large ones.

    There was a time when travel bloggers would wax about the joys of flying in an uncrowded International First or Business fare in one of these beast the joy was a premonition.

  15. Mike C

    A hopeful development, a likely third and possible fourth airline to operate these birds in this part of the world. (EK and SQ also look certain and QF likely to fly them, at least for a while.)

    I'm hoping I can have another flight in one before their end of service.

  16. Richmond_Surrey

    I enjoyed flying A380 Korean Air, great services. Hopefully, will have a chance to fly them again before they are retired.

  17. Trey

    Glad I got to fly both of these birds in business just b4 COVID in 2019. The 747 has much better seats but the on-board lounges on the A380 is worth the tradeoff if flying with someone else.

  18. fatty380

    Glad I got a chance to enjoy beautiful 747-8 F ride from ATL and see all snow on ground before landing at ICN. Chase, thank you for giving me a chance before your KE divorce!

    Rode A380 F as well but def feel bleh and F setup look weird. Nothing beat 747 & individual suite!

  19. Joey

    I've been hoping to fly on Korean Air 747-8 so will plan to do so before 2031. It's disappointing to see the trend of airlines nowadays is eliminating F all together.

Featured Comments Load all 24 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Apso Eyot

This decision is surprising and does not make much sense to me. I thought Korean would be a sure bet to be in the category of "A380 is here to stay for the foreseeable future", just like EK, SQ, BA, QF, and probably CZ. It felt like the A380 was their flagship plane. The thing that helps KE, and not every major airline, is that there are certain places overseas with such a large concentration of Koreans (people & businesses) that those places can pretty much guarantee consistently high passenger volumes on their flights, with O&D traffic alone. For instance, the huge Korean diaspora in the Los Angeles area was capable of filling 3 to 4 daily A380s on ICN-LAX before COVID. The Korean diaspora in the New York area isn't much smaller, and could fill 1-2 A380s each way on ICN-JFK before COVID. Okay, I'm pretty sure Delta helped Korean with some feed, and maybe same with United and Asiana (at LAX), but I'm under the impression that it is primarily the huge O&D that's made the A380 the best choice for these two routes. I thought these kinds of routes are what Korean initially ordered the A380 for and that it would continue make the A380 work well for them even beyond 2026. Not to mention that they are merging with Asiana, which too flew A380s and had a large presence to places like LAX and JFK, and they need to address the extra capacity resulting from that. Now that the A380s and 747-8s will be gone, it seems like they will need to jack up the frequency a ton to adequately serve the places that saw them. Before they announced this, I could see the new Korean Air keeping at least 7-8 A380s for the foreseeable future and running them on ICN-LAX and ICN-JFK, along with maybe ICN-SYD (winter) and ICN-ATL (summer). If anything, they should have used the travel downturn as an opportunity to update the interiors of their A380s, which have an outdated first and business class. Even the Apex Suite that they now have on their 777s would be an improvement over the 2-2-2 they have in business on the A380, and it would make the product consistent. Their plan to retire them in 2026 pretty much assures that they will do nothing to update their A380 interiors before then. Just like Air France and Lufthansa. And with the 747-8, it was never exactly clear what their plan was with it. Did they even fly it on any routes besides ICN-ATL and ICN-YVR, after no longer flying it on ICN-SFO?

Caiden

It is sad to see these a380s and 747-8s to be retired in the desert.

Caiden

Why do Airlines have to retire more and more and more a380s they are conducting on more fuel efficient for example Qatar airways and etc.the airline industry is mostly relying solely on much more fuel efficient aircraft and engines. For example the a350 the 787 the a330neo the a321xlr the a320neo and etc. But even though.it is sad to see these jumbos retired in the desert

Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published