Korean Air Puts Shoppers in the Sky on Its First A380 Jumbo Jet

Korean Air Lines Co. took delivery of its first Airbus A380 superjumbo that comes with a built-in duty-free shop for premium travelers as the carrier seeks to trump luxury perks by rivals including Singapore Airlines Ltd. (SIA)

The airline’s first of 10 double-decker models, handed over by the Toulouse-based planemaker today, is fitted with 407 seats, including 12 first-class suites, 94 business-class seats and 301 in coach, the airline said. The plane is Airbus’s eighth A380 delivered this year out of about planned 24 for all of 2011. Airbus has delivered 49 A380s in total so far.

The Korean flag carrier, the sixth airline to offer service on the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, will tout the lowest number of seats on a superjumbo after dedicating the plane’s entire top deck to business class in a bid to win corporate clients. The Seoul-based airline is scheduled to receive nine more A380s by 2014, as it seeks to get half of passenger sales from premium-classes by 2019.

“The A380 will help put Korean Air on a par with carriers like Singapore Air as it targets more premium passengers,” said Jee Heon Seok, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “The carrier has improved its services a great deal.”

Showers, Suites

Airlines have been reticent to pick up on Airbus’s original marketing ideas for the A380, which featured bars or duty-free boutiques. While Singapore offers enclosed first-class cabins and Emirates provides showers, airlines have been generally conservative about adding attractions that might reduce seat availability. Customization has also hampered production of the jet, and Airbus is years from making a profit on the A380.

Korean scrapped 13 seats to make room for the duty-free area. The A380 will be used initially for operations to Tokyo’s Narita airport and Hong Kong, from June. The airline plans to add Bangkok in July, New York in August and Los Angeles in October, as additional A380s are handed over.

The aircraft will arrive in Korea on June 2 after completing final flight and ground tests in Toulouse in southern France, and will perform its inaugural flight in mid June.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrea Rothman in Paris at aerothman@bloomberg.net; Kyunghee Park in Singapore at kpark3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net; Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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