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Korean Air
Daehan Hanggong
KoreanAir logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programSKYPASS
SubsidiariesJin Air
Fleet size174
Company sloganExcellence in Flight
Parent companyHanjin Group
Traded asKRX: 003490
HeadquartersGonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Key people
RevenueIncrease US$ 13.24 billion (2014)[2]
Operating incomeIncrease US$ (25) million (2014)[2]
Net incomeIncrease US$ (233) million (2014)[2]
Total assetsIncrease US$ 17.6 billion (2014)[2]
Total equityIncrease US$ 21.6 billion (2014)[2]
Korean name
Revised RomanizationDaehan Hanggong
McCune–ReischauerTaehan Hanggong

Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. (Hangul대한항공; RRDaehan Hanggong), operating as Korean Air, is the largest airline and flag carrier of South Korea based on fleet size, international destinations and international flights. The airline's global headquarters are located in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Korean Air was founded as Korean National Airlines in 1946. After several years of service and expansion, the airline was fully privatized in 1969.

Korean Air's international passenger division and related subsidiary cargo division together serve 127 cities in 44 countries, while its domestic division serves 12 destinations. It is among the top 20 airlines in the world in terms of passengers carried and is also the top-ranked international cargo airline. Incheon International Airport serves as Korean Air's international hub. Korean Air also maintains a satellite headquarters campus at Incheon. The majority of Korean Air's pilots, ground staff, and flight attendants are based in Seoul.

Korean Air is the parent company of Jin Air and is a founding member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. It was voted Asia's best airline by Business Traveler readers in 2012.[3]


A Korean National Airlines Douglas DC-4 at Oakland in 1953
KAL introduction of the Boeing 747 for its international Pacific routes in 1973.


Korean Air was founded by the South Korean government in 1962 as Korean Air Lines to replace Korean National Airlines, which was founded in 1946. On March 1, 1969, the Hanjin Transport Group took control of the airline. Long-haul freight operations were introduced on April 26, 1971, followed by passenger services to Los Angeles International Airport on April 19, 1972.[4]

International flights to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Los Angeles were flown with Boeing 707s until the introduction of the Boeing 747 in 1973. In 1973, the airline introduced Boeing 747s on its Pacific routes and started a European service to Paris, France using the 707 and then McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In 1975, the airline became one of the earliest Asian airlines to operate Airbus aircraft with the purchase of three Airbus A300s, which were put into immediate service on Asian routes.[5] Since South Korean aircraft were prohibited from flying in the airspace of North Korea and the Soviet Union at the time, the European routes had to be designed eastbound from South Korea, such as Gimpo-Anchorage-Paris.

Change to 'Korean Air'[edit]

A blue-top, silver and redesigned livery with a new corporate "Korean Air" logo featuring a stylized Taegeuk design was introduced on March 1, 1984, and the airline's name changed to Korean Air from Korean Air Lines. This livery was introduced on its Fokker F28 Fellowships. It was designed in cooperation between Korean Air and Boeing. In the 1990s, Korean Air became the first airline to use the new McDonnell Douglas MD-11 to supplement its new fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft; however, the MD-11 did not meet the airline's performance requirements and they were eventually converted to freighters. Some older 747 aircraft were also converted for freight service.

Korean Air takes delivery of its first Airbus A380 at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, France, May 25, 2011.

Further expansion and founding of Jin Air[edit]

In the 1980s, Korean Air's head office was in the KAL Building on Namdaemunno, Jung-gu, Seoul.[6]

On June 5, 2007, Korean Air said that it would create a new low-cost carrier called Jin Air in Korea to compete with Korea's KTX high-speed railway network system, which offered cheaper fares and less stringent security procedures compared to air travel. Jin Air started its scheduled passenger service from Seoul to Jeju on July 17, 2008. Korean Air announced that some of its 737s and A300s would be given to Jin Air.

By 2009, Korean Air's image had become more prestigious, differing from the airline's late-1990s image, which had been tarnished by several fatal accidents.[7]

In mid-2010, a co-marketing deal with games company Blizzard Entertainment sent a 747-400 and a 737-900 taking to the skies wrapped in StarCraft II branding. In August 2010, Korean Air announced heavy second-quarter losses despite record high revenue.[8] In August 2010, Hanjin Group, the parent of Korean, opened a new cargo terminal at Navoi in Uzbekistan, which will become a cargo hub with regular Incheon-Navoi-Milan flights.[9]

Korean Air owns five hotels: two KAL hotels on Jeju island, the Hyatt in Incheon; Waikiki Resort in Hawaii and a hotel/office building called the Wilshire Grand Tower which is being redeveloped. This building in downtown Los Angeles will house the largest InterContinental Hotel in the Americas in what will be the tallest building in Los Angeles.[10]

In 2013, Korean Air acquired a 44% stake in Czech Airlines.[11] It sold the stake in October 2017.

Corporate affairs and identity[edit]

One of the airline's offices, the KAL Building in Seoul

Korean Air's headquarters, the Korean Air Operations Center (대한항공 빌딩[12]), is located in Gonghang-dong, Gangseo-gu in Seoul. Korean Air also has offices at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul. Korean Air's other hubs are at Jeju International Airport, Jeju and Gimhae International Airport, Busan.[4] The maintenance facilities are located in Gimhae International Airport.

The airline had approximately 20,540 employees as of December 2014.[13]


Korean Air serves 123 international destinations in 50 countries on 5 continents, excluding codeshares. The airline’s international hub is Incheon International Airport. The airline also flies 13 domestic destinations within South Korea. KAL operates between Incheon and 22 cities in mainland China, and along with Asiana Airlines, it is one of the two largest foreign airlines to operate into the People's Republic of China.[14]

Codeshare agreements[edit]

Korean Air codeshares with the following airlines:[15][16]

Korean Air is also an airline partner of Skywards, the frequent-flyer program for Emirates. Skywards members can earn miles for flying Korean Air and can redeem miles for free flights.


As of December 2018, the Korean Air fleet consists of the following aircraft:[21][22][23][24]

Korean Air fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
F C Y+ Y Total
Airbus A220-300 8 2 25 102 127 Order with 10 options and 10 purchase rights[25]
Delivered from December 2017.[26][24]
Airbus A321neo 30 TBA Order with 20 options.[27]
Airbus A330-200 8 6 24 188 218 One aircraft painted in SkyTeam livery.
Airbus A330-300 21 6 18 248 272
18 252 276
Airbus A380-800 10 12 94 301 407
Boeing 737-800 11 12 126 138 Two aircraft are painted in SkyTeam livery
135 147
Boeing 737-900 16 8 180 188
Boeing 737-900ER 6 12 147 159
Boeing 737 MAX 8 30 TBA Order with 20 options.[28]
Boeing 747-400 3 12 45 308 365
24 368 404
Boeing 747-8I 10 6 48 314 368
Boeing 777-200ER 14 8
212 248
8 28 225 261
Boeing 777-300 4 6 35 297 338
Boeing 777-300ER 24 6 8 42 227 277 One aircraft is painted in SkyTeam livery.
One aircraft is painted in Children's Drawing Contest livery
8 56 227 291
Boeing 787-9 8 2 6 18 245 269 Order with 10 options.[29]
Order was converted from 787-8.[30][31]
Korean Air Cargo fleet
Boeing 747-400ERF 4 Cargo
Boeing 747-8F 7 Cargo
Boeing 777F 12 Cargo
Korean Air Business Jet fleet[32][33]
Boeing BBJ1 1 16 - 26
Bombardier Global Express XRS 2 13
Gulfstream G650ER 1[34] 13
Sikorsky S-76+ 1 5 - 6
Korean Air Air Ambulance fleet
Eurocopter EC135 5 5
Total 177 71

Retired fleet[edit]

The company has operated the following aircraft:[35]

Korean Air retired fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A300B4-2C 8 1975 1997
Airbus A300B4-200F 2 1986 2000
Airbus A300-600R 30 1987 2012 Four aircraft are currently stored.
Airbus A300-600RF 2 2015 2015 Converted from Airbus A300-600R.
Boeing 707-320B Unknown Unknown Unknown One was attacked in Soviet Union airspace as Korean Air Lines Flight 902
Boeing 707-320C Unknown Unknown Unknown One was bombed near over Burma as Korean Air Flight 858
Boeing 720 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Boeing 727-100 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Boeing 727-200 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Boeing 737-800 17 2000 2018 Transferred to subsidiary Jin Air.
Boeing 747-200B 10 1978 1998 One aircraft was shot down in Soviet Union as Korean Air Flight 007
One crashed as Korean Air Lines Flight 015
Boeing 747-200C 2 1974 2000
Boeing 747-200F 8 1978 2006 One crashed as Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509
Boeing 747-200SF 2 1991 2002 Converted from Boeing 747-200B.
Boeing 747-300 2 1984 2006 One crashed as Korean Air Flight 801
Boeing 747-300M 1 1988 2001
Boeing 747-300SF 1 2001 2006 Converted from Boeing 747-300M.
Boeing 747-400BCF 6 2007 2014 One aircraft converted from Boeing 747-400M.
Boeing 747-400F 10 1996 2018
Boeing 747-400M 1 1990 2010
Boeing 747SP 2 1981 1998
Boeing 777-200ER 4 2005 2016 Transferred to subsidiary Jin Air.
CASA C-212 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Douglas DC-3 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Douglas DC-4 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Douglas DC-8-60 6 1972 1976
Fairchild-Hiller FH-227 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Fokker F27-200 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Fokker F27-500 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Fokker F28-4000 Unknown Unknown Unknown
Fokker 100 12 1992 2004
Lockheed L-749A Constellation Unknown Unknown Unknown
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 Unknown Unknown Unknown
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 5 1975 1996 One crashed as Korean Air Flight 803
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30CF 1 1978 1983
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 5 1991 1995
McDonnell Douglas MD-11F 5 1995 2005 One was crashed as Korean Air Cargo Flight 6316
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 9 1993 2001
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 7 1994 2001
NAMC YS-11A-200 Unknown Unknown Unknown

Aircraft interiors[edit]

Korean Air Airbus A380-800 Business Class cabin
Korean Air Airbus A380-800 Economy Class cabin

Korean Air offers four types of first class, three types of business (Prestige) class, and two types of economy class.

Prestige Class[edit]

Prestige Class seats include "Prestige Sleeper" seats on all Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A380s, as well as 777-200ER aircraft that feature "Kosmo Suites" seats; "Prestige Plus" seats on most of the Boeing 777-200ER fleet, most of the Boeing 747-400 fleet, and one Boeing 777-300; and "old Prestige Class" seats. "Prestige Sleeper" seats recline to 180 degrees, while "Prestige Plus" seats recline up to 172 degrees. "Old Prestige Class" seats recline up to only 138 degrees, although these seats are being phased out except for on Boeing 737 aircraft.

Economy Class[edit]

Economy Class seats recline up to 121 degrees. A new type of seat called "New Economy Class" is being installed on all Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 777-200ER aircraft with Kosmo Suites, all Boeing 777-300 aircraft, some Airbus A330-300 aircraft, some Airbus A330-200 aircraft, the Airbus A380 aircraft (factory-installed), and brand new Boeing 747-8i aircraft.

The "Kosmo Suites" seats and the "Prestige Sleeper" seats were first introduced in the Boeing 777-300ERs in May 2009.[36] Both seats could stretch to 180 degrees, and became more private than seats before.

The Korean Air Airbus A380-800 aircraft also feature an inflight bar called the Celestial Bar in partnership with Absolut Vodka, featuring a range of Absolut cocktails, along with an integrated lounge space.[37] It is located on the upper deck Business Class cabin, and is accessible only to First and Prestige class passengers.

On the lower deck of the A380, there is a Lancôme-designed duty-free shop located in the rear of the cabin that is available to all passengers.[38]

Loyalty program[edit]

SKYPASS is the frequent-flyer program of Korean Air. "SKYPASS" also refers to the blue card which Korean Air frequent-flyers are given. The motto of SKYPASS is "Beyond your Imagination". The program's elite levels are comparable to those of other airlines' frequent-flyer programs, requiring members to fly 30,000 miles per two-year cycle (initial entry into this level requires 50,000 miles). Qualification for the highest level is based on lifetime flight miles, requiring a customer to fly 1 million miles for Million Miler, which is the highest elite status; or 500,000 miles for Morning Calm Premium, which comes second. Both membership levels are eligible for SkyTeam Elite Plus privileges. Membership in these levels are granted for life.

Aerospace research and manufacturing[edit]

Korean Air is also involved in aerospace research and manufacturing. The division, known as the Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD), has manufactured licensed versions of the MD Helicopters MD 500 and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, as well as the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighter aircraft,[39] the aft fuselage and wings for the KF-16 fighter aircraft manufactured by Korean Aerospace Industries and parts for various commercial aircraft including the Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner; and the Airbus A330 and Airbus A380.[40] In 1991 the division designed and flew the Korean Air Chang-Gong 91 light aircraft. KAA also provides aircraft maintenance support for the United States Department of Defense in Asia and maintains a research division with focuses on launch vehicles, satellites, commercial aircraft, military aircraft, helicopters and simulation systems.[41]

In October 2012, a development deal between Bombardier Aerospace and a government-led South Korean consortium was announced, aiming to develop a 90-seat turboprop regional airliner, targeting a 2019 launch date. The consortium would include Korea Aerospace Industries and Korean Air Lines.[42]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

Korean Air had many fatal accidents between 1970 and 1999, during which time 16 aircraft were written off in serious incidents and accidents with the loss of 700 lives. Two Korean Air aircraft were shot down by the Soviet Union, which were Korean Air Lines Flight 902 and Korean Air Lines Flight 007, respectively. The deadliest crash of the airline was Korean Air Lines Flight 007 which was shot down by the Soviet Union on September 1, 1983. All 269 people were killed, including a sitting U.S. Congressman, Larry McDonald. The last fatal passenger incident was the Korean Air Flight 801 crash in 1997, which killed 228 people. The last crew fatality was in the crash of Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509 in December 1999.[43]


Chaebol and nepotism[edit]

Korean Air has been cited as one of the examples of the South Korean "chaebol" system, wherein corporate conglomerates, established with government support, overreach diverse branches of industry. For much of the time between the foundation of Korean Air as Korean National Airlines in 1946 and the foundation of Asiana Airlines in 1988, Korean Air was the only airline operating in South Korea. The process of privatization of Korean National Airlines in 1969 was supported by Park Chung-hee, the South Korean military general-president who seized power of the country through a military coup d'état; and the monopoly of the airline was secured for two decades. After widening the Jaebeol branches, the subsidiary corporations of Korean Air include marine and overland transportation businesses, hotels and real estate among others; and the previous branches included heavy industry, passenger transportation, construction and a stockbroking business. The nature of the South Korean chaebeol system involves nepotism. A series of incidents involving Korean Air in 2000s have "revealed an ugly side of the culture within chaebeols, South Korean’s giant family-run conglomerates".[44]

"Nut rage" incident[edit]

Cho Hyun-Ah, also known as "Heather Cho", is the daughter of the chairman Cho Yang-ho. She resigned from some of her duties in late 2014 after she ordered a Korean Air jet to return to the gate to allow a flight attendant to be removed from the aircraft. The attendant had served Cho nuts in a bag instead of on a plate. As a result of further fallout, Cho Hyun-Ah was later arrested by Korean authorities for violating South Korea's aviation safety laws.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Airline Insight: Korean Air". November 14, 2018. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e "korean air lines co ltd (003490:Korea SE)". Retrieved September 1, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Tatiana Rokou (December 13, 2012). "Seoul voted "Best International Meetings Destination" for 2012". Archived from the original on January 22, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. April 3, 2007. p. 102.
  5. ^ "Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. History Archived May 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.". International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 27. St. James Press, 1999.
  6. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. May 16, 1981. 1444.
  7. ^ Yu, Roger (August 26, 2009). "Korean Air upgrades service, image". USA Today. Retrieved September 16, 2009.
  8. ^ "Korean Air slides to second quarter loss but touts 'record high' revenue". ATW Online. August 16, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  9. ^ "Navoi Cargo Terminal opens in Uzbekistan; Korean Air to expand cargo network". ATW Online. August 16, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  10. ^ Vincent, Roger (September 23, 2014) "Hotel under construction in downtown L.A. will be an InterContinental" Los Angeles Times
  11. ^ Hovet, Jason; Hepher, Tim (April 10, 2013). "Korean Air finalises investment in loss-making Czech Airlines". Reuters. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "일반현황 / 기업개요". Korean Air. Retrieved September 9, 2010. "주소: 서울 특별시 강서구 공항동 1370번지 대현항공 빌딩"
  13. ^ "Who We Are - Korean Air". Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  14. ^ "Why Nearly Half of Asiana Passengers Were Chinese." The Wall Street Journal. July 7, 2013. Retrieved on July 19, 2013.
  15. ^ "Korean Air codeshare partners". Korean Air. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  16. ^ "Profile Korean Air". CAPA. Centre for Aviation. Archived from the original on October 29, 2016. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  17. ^ "Korean Air / Aurora begins codeshare partnership from July 2018". Routesonline. 12 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Delta and Korean Air to expand partnership". Delta Air Lines. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  19. ^ Hawaiian Airlines (March 22, 2011). "Hawaiian Airlines, Korean Air Team Up On Frequent Flyer Benefits". Hawaiian Airlines. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  20. ^ "Korean Air expands LATAM codeshare to Brasil in Nov 2018". Routesonline. 29 November 2018.
  21. ^ "Korean Air Lines Fleet Details and History". December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  22. ^ "Korean Air fleet and seat maps". Korean Air. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  23. ^ "Business Jet Services". Korean Air. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  24. ^ a b "Program Status Report - C Series aircraft" (PDF). Bombardier Aerospace. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  25. ^ "Korean Air becomes the third operator of the Bombardier CS300". World Airline News. 22 December 2017.
  26. ^ "Korean Air set for maiden CS300, to begin ops in early 1Q18".
  27. ^ "Korean Air finalises order for 30 A321neo". Airbus. 6 November 2015.
  28. ^ "Boeing, Korean Air Announce Airline's Intent to Purchase 30 737 MAXs". Boeing. 16 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Korean Air Joins Boeing 787 Family with up to 20-Airplane Order". Boeing. 11 April 2005.
  30. ^ "Boeing Delivers Korean Air's First 787-9 Dreamliner". February 22, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  31. ^ Ghim-Lay Yeo. "Korean Air converts 10 787-8s to -9s". Singapore: Flight International. Archived from the original on March 21, 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  32. ^ "Korean Air business jet fleets". Korean Air.
  33. ^ Greg Waldron (October 18, 2016). "Korean Air expands business jet charter unit". FlightGlobal.
  34. ^ "Korean Air adds maiden Gulfstream G650ER". Ch-Aviation. 3 August 2016.
  35. ^ "Korean Air Lines Fleet Details and History". 26 June 2018.
  36. ^ "Korean Air introduces premium seats" (in Korean).
  37. ^ "Absolut Celestial Bar on Korean Air A380 aircraft". Contrast Magazine. Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  38. ^ "Lancome Opening Duty-Free Shops on Korean Air's A380 Airplanes". Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  39. ^ "Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAA)". Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  40. ^ Carrier moonlights in aerospace. Los Angeles Times. (February 18, 2007).
  41. ^ Korean Air Aerospace Division Official Website Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine..
  42. ^ Choi, Kyong-Ae (October 8, 2012). "South Korea Consortium in Talks With Bombardier About Developing Passenger Plane". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  43. ^ Kirk, Don (March 26, 2002). "New Standards Mean Korean Air Is Coming Off Many 'Shun' Lists". The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  44. ^ Pasick, Adam (December 9, 2014). "Nepotism in a Nutshell". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  45. ^ "Ex-Korean Air Executive Arrested Over 'Nut Rage' Incident". December 30, 2014. Retrieved April 24, 2015.

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