Key Points:

  • South Korea's Air Premia aims to triple its Boeing 787-9 fleet by 2027, aligning with its growth in Asia, Europe, and North America.

  • The airline has been rapidly expanding since its international debut in July 2022, even amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic.

  • Amidst the uncertainties surrounding the Korean Air-Asiana merger, Air Premia sees potential growth opportunities.

Air Premia plots growth, eyeing a fleet of 15 Boeing 787-9s by 2027.

SEOUL — Founded amidst the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seoul-based Air Premia has set ambitious growth targets. Despite its challenging inception during the pandemic, the airline, after initiating international operations in 2022, has impressively expanded its fleet to five Boeing 787-9s. Ryan Park, Air Premia's Strategy Planning Manager, unveiled these milestones at a conference in Istanbul.

Route Expansion and Key Markets 

Currently operating routes to diverse cities like Bangkok, Barcelona, Frankfurt, and Los Angeles among others, the airline has witnessed impressive load factors. For instance, within just two months of initiating its Los Angeles route in October 2022, an 85% load factor was recorded. The Newark route, launched in May 2023, quickly followed suit with a 90% load factor.

Targeting markets like small business, VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives), and millennial travelers, Air Premia operates its 309-seat 787s, offering both premium economy and economy seating options. The aircraft's substantial range opens up potential markets both in the US coasts and Western Europe.

Future Fleet and Challenges

Park outlined the company's future plans, stating, "As of today, we operate five aircraft and are on track to add two more each year. Our goal is to operate 10 aircraft by 2025 and further extend it to 15 by 2027." However, the quest to acquire additional Boeing 787-9s faces hurdles due to high demand, leading to discussions with global lessors to secure the aircraft on time. Plans for 2024 emphasize bolstering flight frequencies to Los Angeles and Newark.

International Focus and Potential Routes 

Beginning with Asian routes, Air Premia then shifted its focus towards transpacific journeys, especially to the US West Coast. Future aspirations center on expanding further in the US and Europe. Upcoming additions include Honolulu, with possible future routes spanning cities in Asia like Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Manila, and European destinations such as Rome and Paris.

The Korean Air-Asiana Deal and its Implications 

The acquisition of Asiana Airlines by Korean Air has undergone scrutiny in Europe. The European Commission (EC) expressed competition apprehensions, particularly concerning certain Europe-South Korea routes, halting its antitrust probe in June 2023 awaiting vital data from the involved airlines. This delay continues, with the needed data still pending. Consequently, some experts speculate that the merger might not proceed. Yet, should the deal go through, both Virgin Atlantic and Air Premia could benefit. Park envisions the potential merger as a significant opportunity, given that Air Premia remains South Korea's sole long-haul remedy provider.

Looking ahead, Air Premia's vision encompasses broadening its network and partnering with potential airports or airlines, especially focusing on regions like Japan, southeast Asia, and China. "If all progresses as anticipated, Air Premia envisions profitability by 2024 and aims to achieve revenue nearing $1 billion by 2027 with its fleet of 15 aircraft," Park concluded.