By Kim Jung-hwan
South Korea’s full-service carrier Asiana Airlines Inc. will confidently confront the multiple challenges from domestic budget carriers and cheaper liners from China and Middle East on top of higher oil prices and volatile foreign exchange rates with enhancement of fleet with fuel-efficient aircrafts and cost-saving efforts, said 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 on Thursday.
The airliner is ready to turn to aggressive posture and invest, having streamlined through restructuring over the last three years.
Its first weaponry is the deployment of A350-900, 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 in the longer-haul routes.
At the same time the company would be refurbishing the business-class section of the flagship B777 aircrafts tor differentiated look and service, he said.
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 full 2016.
The company would focus long-haul routes while short destinations are covered by its budget carriers Air Seoul and Air Busan, said Kim. The company’s operating profit was added by 6.4 billion won by ridding of money-losing short-distance routes.