Korean Air will axe the Asiana Airlines brand and phase out Asiana's fleet, following a $2.2 billion buyout which will turbocharge the South Korean flag-carrier and catapult it to become one of the world's largest airlines.
The take-over, announced in November 2020 and backed by the Korea Development Bank, will now formally happen in 2022, with both airlines to fully merge and integrate their operations by 2024.
"There will be one brand, Korean Air, after the integration," Korean Air President Woo Keehong confirmed in a media briefing yesterday.
A "post merger integration plan" is being developed for the integration of Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and their three offshoot low-cost carriers – Jin Air, Air Busan and Air Seoul – which will also be consolidated to "become a top-level low-cost airline not only in Korea, but also in Asia."
The merged Korean-Asiana fleet would be "simplified", with Woo saying "it will be relatively easier for Asiana Airlines to phase out their aircraft, as they have many leased aircraft with contracts that will end within 5 years."
"We will continue to simplify our fleet by retiring older aircraft over 20 years and introduce new models."
Post-merger and post-COVID, Korean Air will also reshape its network by "streamlining redundant routes", although Woo rejected "monopoly concerns" over the airline's newfound size and strength.
"Korean Air and Asiana Airlines account for less than 40% of passenger slots at Incheon International Airport," he said.
"This number is significantly lower than major global airlines’ share of slots at their respective international hub airports in Asia, Europe, and the United States."
"As the aviation market provides customers with a wide range of options, I do not think the integration will cause monopoly issues in the Korean or global market."
Woo also flagged integration of the airline's respective Skypass and Asiana Club frequent flyer programs – saying "we plan to closely analyze Asiana's mileage program and decide on the conversion rate based on Korean Air's rates", as well as how their top tiers would be aligned.
Asiana's shut-down after 36 years will also see the loss of a key member of the Star Alliance group, with Korean Air belonging to rival SkyTeam.