[University]Columbia University Networks Global Alumni
By Kim Rahn
As competition in the aviation industry grows with the emergence of low cost carriers, non-budget airlines are struggling to stay alive by adding luxury amenities and services.
Korean Air recently expanded its first and business class services on 23 of its flights.
The carrier has started to provide first class services on 16 international routes. Previously, those flights had first class seats and business class passengers could upgrade to the larger seats for an additional fee, but the service and in-flight meal was the same as in ordinary business class.
The upgraded routes include: Inchon to Sapporo, Shenyang, Ulaanbaatar, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Vancouver, Toronto, Zurich, Moscow, Amsterdam, Rome, Prague, Dubai, Cairo and Istanbul.
Small planes on seven short-haul routes to China, which had business class seats but did not provide any extra services, now provide upgraded services to passengers in business class.
The flights include: Inchon to Yanji, Inchon to Sanya, Inchon to Wuhan, Inchon to Kunming, Inchon to Amoy, Pusan to Shanghai and Pusan to Xian.
Korean Air's changes are in line with its aim to become a luxury, high-quality airline. Korean Air Chairman and CEO Cho Yang-ho recently said during a seminar with group executives that the carrier needs to improve its service quality.
``The expansion of prestigious classes will help Korean Air make better profits on its international operations as well as boost its image,'' a Korean Air official said.
As high-quality services are offered on short-range flights as well, passengers who want comfortable seats despite the expensive fares now have more choices, he added.
The carrier is remodeling its older aircraft with up-to-date facilities, including a cocoon-style Kosmo Sleeper Seat in first class, a Prestige Plus Seat in business class, and an audio and video-on-demand (AVOD) system in all seats of all classes.
``The LA Times' recent favorable comment _ that Korean Air is turning itself from a local carrier into a global one _ is the result of our strategy to make the carrier more luxurious,'' the official said.
Asiana Airlines also plans to spend $60 million in upgrading seats on 12 of their medium and large-sized aircraft by the end of 2008, under its long-term strategy to adopt state-of-the-art in-flight facilities.
First and business class seats on four B747-400 planes will be replaced with new more comfortable ones, and all seats including those in economy class will have an AVOD system. Business class seats and in-flight entertainment systems on three B777-200 and five B767-300 will also be upgraded.
The carrier increased the number of business and first class seats by 17 percent last year and will add more this year.
``We will buy eight new planes and will finish upgrading almost all of our fleet by the end of next year,'' an Asiana official said.