Air Premia: South Korea’s Brand New Boeing 787 Airline Startup

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Established on July 27th, 2017, Air Premia is a South Korean low-cost carrier. The airline was supposed to operate its first commercial flight in September but has had to push its plans back due to the current global crisis. Although this airline has yet to operate its first flight, what is it all about, and does it have a chance of surviving the industry’s current conditions?

Air Premia
Air Premia is based out of Seoul Incheon Airport and will be an all-787 fleet. Photo: Air Premia

“We realize valuable premium through the convergence in contrast: the balance between customer and crew, price and comfort, innovation and discipline, profit and value, work and life.” -Air Premia

Zero aircraft at the moment

It’s been quite a journey for the Incheon-based budget airline – and it hasn’t even had its first flight yet!

Air Premia was first established in July of 2017 under the name AP Air. This was made possible with an initial investment of KRW 1.5 billion ($1.35 million). Less than a year later, the company changed its name to Air Premia and has been operating under the name ever since. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the company has managed to raise over $150 million worth of funding through multiple rounds of financing.

The airline then obtained its Air Carrier License in March 2019, announcing its first long-term operating lease agreement with Air Lease Corporation for new three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

The first Dreamliner aircraft was scheduled to be delivered in July 2020, followed by the second aircraft in September 2020, and the third in November 2020. However, it looks like deliveries have been deferred as data from Planespotters.net shows that it still has zero aircraft in its fleet.

Air Premia
Air Premia hopes that by operating a modern fleet, it will avoid safety and maintenance issues associated with older aircraft. Photo: Air Premia

“We are honored and excited to be providing Air Premia the first three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners on long-term lease from ALC…These new aircraft will offer advanced dimensions in comfort, service and affordability in the Korea marketplace, and will serve Air Premia’s route network efficiently with the latest technology long-range aircraft. ALC is proud of our business association with Air Premia and to contribute to the new airline’s success.” -Steven F. Udvar-Házy, Executive Chairman of Air Lease Corporation

Ten aircraft by 2024

The airline had planned to begin service in September 2020 out of Seoul Incheon International Airport. Initially starting with two aircraft, it was to have a full fleet of ten aircraft by 2024. However, it’s possible that due to current events, the timeline will be moved back. This is highly likely as many industry experts predict two to three years of recovery to 2019 levels of traffic.

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Air Premia is to be a hybrid carrier, aiming to offer premium quality of service at a reasonable price.

The carrier isn’t planning on operating short-haul routes. Rather, it will start long-haul flights to Los Angeles and San Jose. These were supposed to start in 2021 with later plans to branch out to Oceania and Europe as well. Last year, we reported that it was looking at routes to Honolulu, Vancouver, Munich (or Berlin), and Cairns.

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Air Premia
Air Premia is setting expectations high with the promise of premium service at an affordable price. Photo: Air Premia

The carrier says it had a “low-seat-density strategy,” which is stated as 35 inches of pitch in economy class and 42 inches in premium economy. This “high operational efficiency, single fleet, and seat configuration” allows the company to “deliver the best-in-class comfortable seats and services at reasonable prices.”

An all-787 budget airline with a premium class. Air Premia sounds a little like Japan’s ZIPAIR.

Where is the carrier now?

Some start-ups launch with a bang and slowly fade away, letting their websites get out of date. While no new press releases have been posted to Air Premia’s website, its Instagram channel has remained active.

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In fact, 10 weeks ago, the company showed a photo of its Dreamliner being assembled, which is rather encouraging. In late October, another post said that the airline had come a lot closer to taking delivery of the first aircraft and launching its first route.

“In addition to preparing to take delivery of the aircraft, there is also flight attendant training that can only be done with the real aircraft. We are waiting for the moment to acquire the flight certificate, which we have prepared with dedication for the past few years and in recent months.” -Air Premia via Instagram

So, it looks like Air Premia will go ahead with a launch – albeit slightly delayed. How do you think it will do as an all-787 budget airline launching during a global health crisis? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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