Asiana to add luxury image with new fleet, refurbishment

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South Korea’s full-service carrier Asiana Airlines Inc. will confidently confront the multiple challenges from domestic budget carriers and cheaper airlines from China and Middle East. This comes on top of higher oil prices and volatile foreign exchange rates, which has led to the enhancement of Asiana’s fleet with fuel-efficient aircraft and cost-saving efforts, according to its chief executive officer.

“This year will be a turning point for us to go offensive from defensive,” said Kim Soo-cheon during an interview with Maeil Business Newspaper recently.

The airliner is ready to adopt an aggressive posture and invest, having streamlined through restructuring over the past three years. Its first weaponry is the deployment of the A350-900, the latest product of French maker Airbus boasting lightness with its frame made 53% out of carbon composite material and in aerodynamic design to offer 20 percent to 25 percent better fuel efficiency than others in the same class. Industry experts estimate the average operating expense per seat could be reduced by 10 percent when fuel efficiency is improved by 20 percent.

The second largest air carrier in Korea would bring in the first four this year to run a fleet of 30 and deploy them on the longer-haul routes. At the same time the company would be refurbishing the business-class section of the flagship B777 aircraft tor differentiated look and service, according to the CEO.

Thanks to restructuring through sales of unprofitable assets and rationalization of routes, the company registered an operating profit of 257.0 billion won ($224.8 million) last year, the highest in five years on a consolidated basis. Net profit reached 54.3 billion won for for the whole of 2016. The company will focus on long-haul routes while short destinations are covered by its budget carriers Air Seoul and Air Busan, explained Kim. The company’s operating profit was boosted by 6.4 billion won by scrapping money-losing money-losing short-distance routes.

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