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Asiana Airlines introduces A350-900 to focus on long-haul flights

Asiana Airlines, the country’s second-largest full-service carrier in terms of sales, has added Airbus’ A350-900 for service to focus on strengthening long-haul flights, the firm said Thursday. 

The company said it will introduce up to 30 of the A350s by 2025, to increase its competitiveness in operating diversified, mid- and long-distance flight services. The latest introduction of the new A350-900 is the air carrier’s 10th of its kind. 

Asiana Airlines CEO Han Chang-Soo (sixth from left) poses with Asiana employees for a photo to celebrate introduction of its 10th A350-900 for operation. (Asiana Airlines)
Asiana Airlines CEO Han Chang-Soo (sixth from left) poses with Asiana employees for a photo to celebrate introduction of its 10th A350-900 for operation. (Asiana Airlines)

The air carrier has been recently increasing the operation of cost-effective A350 in long-haul flights.

Currently, Asiana flies A350 to destinations in Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, European cities like London and Paris, as well as San Francisco and Seattle in the US. From Oct. 28, A350 will be put on the Incheon-Lisbon, Portugal route. 

“A350, which has 25 percent higher fuel efficiency compared to other aircrafts in similar size, will be responsible for up to 60 percent of our entire long-distance flights by 2025, which is part of Asiana’s plan to become an air carrier focused on long-distance networks,” said Asiana Airlines in a statement. 

Meanwhile, market insiders raised concerns over Kumho Asiana’s plan to complete sales of controlling 31 percent stake in Asiana Airlines within this year, considering an unfavorable business situation due to a weakened Korean won, rise in oil price and sluggish performance of domestic air carriers following a continued nationwide boycott of trips to Japan.

Asiana Airlines recorded 124.1 billion won ($104.6 million) of operating loss in the second quarter, turning into the red. 

Kumho Asiana Group has reportedly completed a bidding presentation from four bidders shortlisted for Asiana auction: Aekyung Group, a consortium led by local activist fund Korea Corporate Governance Improvement, South Korean private equity fund Stonebridge Capital and a consortium formed by Hyundai Development Company and Mirae Asset Daewoo. 

The group said it plans to select a preferred bidder in November via its lead manager Credit Suisse.

If the Asiana auction, which is estimated to be worth up to 2 trillion won, does not conclude within this year, the stocks held by Kumho Industrial, the holding entity of Asiana Airlines, can be sold by creditors including Korea Development Bank.

On Thursday, the country’s Supreme Court ruled for a 45-day suspension of the air carrier’s Incheon-San Francisco route over its deadly crash landing in July 2013, which killed three Chinese passengers and injured 187 of the 307 passengers.

The Transport Ministry said the flight ban will be implemented before the end of February.

In 2014, Asiana challenged an appellate court ruling, saying the suspension of its lucrative route to the US city, which the air carrier has operated since 1992, would cause a loss of 5.7 billion won. 

By Kim Da-sol (