Breaking: Korean Airlines Latest Airline To Ground Airbus A380s

Korean Air has taken a massive 44 routes out of its schedule this week, and has become the latest airline to drop the A380 in favor of smaller aircraft. The airline joins Lufthansa, Qantas and China Southern, who also grounded a number of A380s due to the travel slump caused by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Korean Air A380
Korean Air has grounded its 10 A380s. Photo: Getty

What’s happening?

Korean Air is reported by as having removed 44 routes from its schedule this week. Its total capacity is down 60% in comparison with last week, and a staggering 76% since the beginning of February.

More notable is the fact that the airline has grounded its entire fleet of Airbus A380s in response to the low demand for travel. The airline operates 10 Airbus A380s in its fleet, but is abandoning them from its schedules along with as many as 90 other aircraft, reports Forbes.

Korean Air A380
All 10 of Korean Air’s A380s will be grounded. Photo: Getty

Korean Air becomes the second Asian carrier to ground all its A380s, after China Southern grounded its fleet of five previously. The airline has told Simple Flying that it does not anticipate having the jet in service before the 25th April.

Rival Korean airline Asiana is still flying its A380s at the time of writing. It flies the giant jumbos between Seoul and Los Angeles as well as Frankfurt.

An 80% capacity cut

Korean Air’s A380s typically flew legacy routes to destinations including Paris, New York and Los Angeles. While most of these routes will continue to operate, the airline will swap out the large A380 for smaller widebodies, such as the A330-300, of which it has 21, or the 787-9 Dreamliner, which number 10 in its fleet.

The airline has, overall, cut capacity in its network by some 80%. Its fleet of 145 aircraft now has as many as 100 on the ground, as the airline attempts to mitigate its losses from the COVID-19 outbreak. As well as taking aircraft out of service and slashing its routes, Korean Air has been undertaking various self-help measures, including deferring investments, asking employees to take voluntary unpaid leave and cutting operational expenses.

Korean Air A380
The 10 A380s join approximately 90 other aircraft in being grounded from the fleet. Photo: Getty

Just yesterday, the airline’s CEO Woo Kee-hong was reported  to have issued a stark warning to employees, saying that,

“We can easily imagine the severity of the crisis we are facing in comparison. And what is more daunting is that the situation can get worse at any time and we cannot even predict how long it will last … if the situation continues for a longer period, we may reach the threshold where we cannot guarantee the company’s survival.”

Right now, Korean Air is a shadow of its former self. If the coronavirus outbreak continues to negatively affect travel into the summer season, the airline could be seriously at risk.

Grounding the giant jumbo

Korean Air becomes the latest airline to shelve the A380 amidst the current travel slump. Earlier this week, we reported that Lufthansa was preparing to ground its entire A380 fleet, as most were notching a load factor of just 35% in service. The German airline is looking to keep all 14 of its A380s on the ground through to May at least.

Australian flag carrier Qantas has also dropped the giant jumbo from its schedules. Qantas has grounded eight of its 12 A380s until mid-September. With two out of service for cabin refits and heavy maintenance, the flying kangaroo will only operate two in its fleet for the time being.

Asiana Airlines, Airbus A380
Asiana’s A380s are still flying, but for how long? Photo: Getty Images

While it’s a positive sign that Asiana is attempting to keep its A380s in service, Forbes reports that a recent flight to Frankfurt only achieved a load factor of 20%. Another flight to Hanoi in late February was reported to notch just 15% occupancy.

With load factors like that, we can imagine it will be only a matter of days before Asiana’s A380s stop flying too.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.