Last week, it was decided by the Korean Supreme Court that Asiana Airlines must suspend its San Francisco route for a period of 45 days. The suspension was issued as a punishment, following the crash of flight OZ214 in 2013. Now the plans have been put in place and Asiana Airlines has closed reservations for its Seoul Incheon – San Francisco route for a specific window in March/April 2020.
The South Korean Supreme Court-imposed order will last 45-days, forcing the Star Alliance carrier to temporarily suspend the service from March 3rd to April 16th next year. On this route, Asiana operates the Airbus A350-900XWB.
No service to SFO in March and half of April
Following the route suspension, the scheduled service will resume on April 17th. According to Routes Online, this is what the service will be after the suspension:
- OZ212 will depart Seoul Incheon (ICN) at 2040, arriving in San Francisco (SFO) at 1500
- OZ211 will depart San Francisco at 2330 and arrive at Seoul Incheon at 0430 two days later (due to travel time and crossing the international dateline)
The timing of this suspension period must be a strategic decision as it is prior to the high-demand northern summer season. Regardless, it is an unwelcome imposition for the Korean carrier as it struggles to deal with a large amount of debt while seeking a buyer to gain financial security.
Background to the suspension
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 San Francisco’s international airport. The crash resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to around 200 people. The cause of the incident was determined to have been pilot error.
Filling the gap
Just because Asiana is suspending service doesn’t mean that direct service between the cities will cease. In fact, there is a large amount of competition on the route between these two major cities.
In terms of commercial passenger service, Korean Airlines flies twice daily as flights KE23 and KE25 to San Francisco and KE24 and KE26 on the return flight to Seoul Incheon. These flights both utilize a Boeing 777-300.
While on the American side, United Airlines also has non-stop service to the Korean capital. The two daily flights are UA893 and UA805 to Seoul. On the return journey, the flights are UA806 and UA892. Flights by United use either a Boeing 787-9 or 777-200.
Two things could happen during this suspension period with Asiana out of the picture. Firstly, fares could go up due to a decrease in capacity and an anticipated rise in demand. Alternately, United could change its aircraft to allow for more capacity, switching its 787-9 for a 777. Korean does have the Boeing 747-8, which it could use instead of its 777s to increase seating capacity.
We will have to wait and see how badly this suspension impacts Asiana. What do you think? Will it lose significant market share as a result, or will the 45-day suspension be a small hiccup that it will recover from? Furthermore, we’d love to know how you think the other airlines flying this route will react and adjust. Let us know by leaving a comment!