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SkyTeam alliance member Korean Air plans to roll out a new business class seat over the coming years, joined by the addition of inflight Internet access on board every Korean Air plane.
Eyeing a more modern experience for business travellers, Korean Air is one of the few major global airlines that still lacks inflight connectivity on a single aircraft or route, with this project set to bring Korean Air in line with its peers.
Addressing media at the concluding session of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) AGM and World Air Transport Summit, Korean Air Chairman and CEO Walter Cho – who also now takes on the role of Chairman of the SkyTeam Governing Board – was upbeat about the airline’s agenda:
“There are absolutely plans for WiFi connectivity for all our aircraft, including our existing aircraft. It’s part of our plan to modernise our seats and our service, taking that service to the level where our customers’ needs are.”
“Currently, we are testing designs… and are talking to suppliers for both connectivity and seats. But as you know, the lead time (from order to entry into service) is about three years: we’ll get this as soon as we can.”
These plans for a new business class seat come as Korean Air withdraws first class service from a variety of destinations and aircraft this month, including on Airbus A330 flights to Sydney, and both Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 flights to Brisbane.
As the physical first class seats on those jets were much like business class – the same basic seat boosted by added privacy, longer beds and larger TVs – the exclusive single-row cabin that formerly served as first class is now open to business class passengers, where they’ll enjoy the same amenities and service as in ‘regular’ business class.
For illustration, here’s what business class looks like on those Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s…
… and here’s what passed for first class, which is now being adopted as an extra row of business class:
Cho explains to Australian Business Traveller that “the reason we decided to remove first class (from sale) on some parts of our fleet was for simplification of the inflight service,” and in response to “the demand of the market.”
While Cho confirmed that the airline’s new business class seat would eventually be retrofitted to aircraft such as the A330 – replacing the ‘first class’ and business class seating mix with a single redesigned business class cabin – he couldn’t go into further detail.
“I’m not hiding a secret,” he quips. “We just haven’t decided (on a seat) yet.”
Korean Air continues to offer first class aboard selected aircraft types and flights, including between Sydney and Seoul when the airline's Airbus A380 takes over from the smaller A330 during peak periods.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Seoul as a guest of Korean Air, and is attending the IATA AGM as a guest of IATA.