Korean Air Chases Premium Flyers With Low-Density A380

Korean Air Lines Co.’s fleet of Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos will have the lowest seating density of any operator to date as the Asian carrier seeks to lure top-end travelers on inter-continental routes.

The planes will be fitted with 400 to 450 seats, leaving space for “plenty of snazzy features,” spokesman James Sanderson said in London. He declined to provide details, beyond saying that the design includes lounges for premium passengers.

Qantas Airways Ltd. has the lowest-density layout among the five carriers that currently operate the superjumbo, with 450 seats, though the Australian company’s next batch will have either a smaller first-class cabin and 490 seats or none at all, boosting capacity to 550 people. Air France’s planes have the most berths at 538, while Deutsche Lufthansa AG offers 526, Dubai-based Emirates 489 and Singapore Airlines Ltd. 471.

Korean Air will take delivery of five superjumbos next year, Sanderson said in the interview, adding that the total has been confirmed by Airbus. Five more planes will follow over the next two years. Most routes will be across the Pacific, he said.

The Seoul-based company was initially scheduled to receive the A380 from 2008 before Airbus suffered a succession of production delays.

Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines Inc. has said it intends to operate A380s with 394 seats, including 114 in business class. The carrier expects to receive its first superjumbo in 2014, President Shinichi Nishikubo said last month.

‘Real Luxury’

Korean Air plans to become a “real luxury carrier,” deriving 50 percent of passenger sales from premium classes by 2019 as it challenges Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., President Chi Chang Hoon said July 20.

Business and first-class cabins accounted for about 20 percent of passenger revenue last year.

Features already incorporated by A380 operators include showers on some Emirates planes, bar areas for premium Lufthansa customers and enclosed first-class cabins on Singapore Airlines.

Airbus will take delivery of one of the engines for the first Korean Air A380 on Dec. 7. Handover of the plane is due in May. The GP7200 turbine is the 100th to be shipped by the Engine Alliance of General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney, which competes with Rolls-Royce Group Plc to power the superjumbo.

Australia’s aviation regulator has asked U.K.-based Rolls to address “critical safety issues” with its Trent 900 model after one of its engines blew up last month on a Qantas A380.

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