Nine months behind schedule, Air Premia’s first plane is about to land. The South Korean startup airline is picked up its first aircraft this week when Air Lease Corporation handed over a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner registered as HL8387. At the time of publication, the plane is en route to Seoul. Air Premia’s CEO has described today as a historic moment for the South Korean transportation industry.
A long time coming, but the first Air Premia Dreamliner now on its way to Seoul
HL8387 is the first of three Boeing 787-9s due to arrive at Air Premia. The planes were due to be delivered last year, but the global travel downturn saw that timeline pushed back. The next two Dreamliners are now due to be delivered in May and December.
“We cannot describe in words how grateful and honored we are to receive our first Boeing 787 Dreamliner,” said Air Premia’s CEO, Peter JY Sim.
The Dreamliners have been a long time coming for Air Premia. On paper, the airline has existed for nearly four years and obtained its Air Carrier’s Licence two years ago. Flights were originally set to begin in 2020.
While three 787-9s are expected in Seoul this year, Air Premia plans to have 10 planes by 2024. By then, most experts expect international passenger demand and flight frequencies to have returned to 2019 levels. But Air Premia is tackling a tough segment of the airline market – medium and long-haul travel.
The airline is initially eyeing flights to the United States west coast, Hawaii, Europe, and Australia. Air Premia is adding a further layer of complexity by styling itself as a hybrid carrier. They want to pick and choose aspects of the full-service carrier and low-cost carrier models. The airline says;
“Air Premia is a hybrid service carrier that takes you on a comfortable journey on the medium and long-haul routes that low-cost carriers aren’t able to serve and full-service carriers cannot provide at a reasonable price.”
The hybrid airline model is a tough model to make work
These kinds of hybrid, or mid-market airlines, are a compelling concept. But the fundamental flaw in the hybrid carrier model is that most passengers expect the benefits of full-service carriers at the prices offered by a low-cost carrier. Ultimately, that puts cost pressures on the airline and can lead to unmet passenger expectations. Both can have negative long-term consequences for the airline. The hybrid airline model is a hard market to make work.
But Air Premia thinks they can make the model work, and the Dreamliners are a key reason why. Air Premia will only use one type of aircraft. This will lead to substantial operational efficiencies. In addition, the 787-9s agility, low fuel consumption, and two-cabin configuration will also help cut running costs and maximize revenue.
Air Premia’s Dreamliners will offer economy and premium economy cabin classes. Air Premia says they’ll offer economy class seats at about 80-90% of the price of an economy class seat on full-service rival Korean Air. Their premium economy seats will sell for about 140% of the price of an economy class seat on Korean Air.
Air Premia argues that demand for long-haul travel was steadily increasing from South Korea before the global travel downturn. Mostly, full-service carriers Korean Air and Asiana owned that market. South Korea’s many low-cost carriers generally stuck to domestic and short-haul international markets. The way Air Premia sees it, there’s a gap in the market for decent quality, well-priced international long-haul travel out of South Korea, and Air Premia aims to fill it.
What do you think? Will Air Premia’s hybrid model work? Is the 787-9 Dreamliner the right plane to make the hybrid market model work? Post a comment and let us know.