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 France, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, 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.
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.
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 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)