Asiana Airlines will be made to suspend its San Francisco route for a period of 45 days at some point in the next six months. The Korean Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to issue the suspension as a punishment, following the crash of flight 214 in 2013.
As reported today in Reuters, South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to suspend the airline’s route between Seoul Incheon and San Francisco for a total of 45 days. This will be very unwelcome news for the Korean carrier, as it struggles under a mountain of debt and seeks to find a buyer to give it a fresh lease of life.
A suspension penalty
The suspension of the route was previously ordered by Korea’s transport ministry in the wake of a deadly crash at San Francisco International Airport in 2013. The incident involved a Boeing 777-200, which crash-landed at SFO causing three deaths and injuries to around 200 people. The cause was determined to have been pilot error.
The airline was deemed to be responsible for the accident due to the lack of training and education of its pilots. The pilot had failed to accurately monitor airspeed and was found to have been too reliant on automated systems.
As a result, Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport ruled that the airline should suspend the route for a total of 90 days as a punishment. However, they then agreed to halve this punishment on the agreement of the airline to give compensation to its victims.
But Asiana wasn’t happy with this, and subsequently won an injunction, preventing the punishment for being effected until a further ruling was granted. Following several years of back and forth, the ruling by the highest court in Korea cannot be argued with, so the airline must accept the punishment. The Korea Times reports a statement from the airline, which read,
“We respect the court ruling. To minimize the inconvenience to our customers, we will consult with relevant organizations.”
When will the suspension take place?
So as to cause the least amount of disruption to the airline’s passengers, the suspension will not take place right away. The exact timing will be decided in due course, but it must be within the next six months. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport told Yonhap News,
“The suspension period will be determined through consultations with Asiana in order to minimize passenger inconvenience.”
The airline has said that this ruling will cost it in the region of 11bn won ($9.3m) in sales. However, it has also said that it plans to redeploy the aircraft usually used on the SFO route onto other services, which will go some way to minimizing the overall losses incurred.
An insider speaking to Reuters said that the ministry is planning to request other airlines operating the route to use larger aircraft during the period of Asiana’s suspension.