South Korea is another East Asian country that has two competing legacy airlines. Home to both Asiana and Korean Air, the country has two dependable airlines for long-distance, full-service journeys. Like other recent comparison articles, this isn’t a review of any particular cabin class. Instead, we’ll examine various factors that might lead you to choose one airline over another in a more general sense.
According to FlightConnections.com, Asiana Airlines currently serves 10 domestic destinations and 66 international destinations in 25 countries. This pales in comparison to Korean Air’s offerings, serving 13 domestic destinations and 103 international destinations in 42 countries.
However, for travelers loyal to the Star Alliance, member airline Asiana connects to a network of more than 1,300 destinations in 195 countries worldwide. Korean Air, a member of SkyTeam, is part of a network that offers 1,150 destinations in 175 countries.
It’s an interesting (and probably non-ideal) time to compare airlines and their fleets when most jets are sitting on the ground. However, let’s press on and look at the fleet composition of the two airlines and what would typically be available.
Their number of destinations is a reasonably accurate reflection of which airline has the larger fleet. Airfleets lists Korean Air as having 168 aircraft while Asiana has only half of that at 84. Both airlines use the Airbus A380 on their busier routes, but it’s difficult to know if these will still be flying once this global crisis passes, and the industry slowly recovers.
Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s and 747s, all feature prominently in the fleets of the two airlines. However, Korean Air is one of the few commercial passenger airlines that went for the new 747-8. In fact, Lufthansa and Air China are the only other airlines using the jet for passenger travel.
Present in the Korean Air fleet, but absent with Asiana, is the Boeing 787-9. For Korean, these are relatively new as they are only one to three years old. On the other side, Asiana has several Airbus A350s, which range from three years to three months old.
Inflight service and ratings
Ratings from various sources are quite interesting. SkyTrax rates Korean Air as a four-star airline while Asiana has been given five stars. For SkyTrax world rankings, Asiana sits at 24 while Korean is at 33. SkyTrax reviewers themselves give both airlines 8/10, with many saying that Asiana’s inflight (English) entertainment seems limited.
Interestingly, Trip Advisor reviews tell a different story. Reviewers gave Korean Air an average of 4.5 out of 5, while Asiana only gets a 4.0 rating. Trip Advisor members gave higher ratings to Korean Air for customer service, cleanliness, and the check-in/boarding experience.
A few reviewers who have flown Asiana’s business class remark that both the A350 and A380 experience is nothing remarkable with mediocre food and a slightly above average hard product. From economy to first class, people who have flown on Korean Air seem to really love their experience.
From all of the data presented, it appears that Korean Air is the better airline in South Korea. The combination of mostly positive reviews and the number of destinations offered makes the airline the one to beat.
The most intriguing part of this study saw SkyTrax label Asiana a “Five Star Airline” while Korean took home just four stars. This flys in the face of the numerous reviews presented online. SkyTrax ratings have been controversial – is this a similar situation?
Have you flown these two South Korean airlines? Which one do you think is the better carrier? Let us know your opinion in the comments!