Four airlines to receive their first A380 superjumbo in 2014

First A380 deliveries 2014_680x371

By Raymond Kollau,

As more airlines are bidding farewell to the last 747 in their fleet and opt for the 777-300ER or the A380 as their flagship product instead, this year will see four more airlines welcoming their first superjumbo.

The A380 provides 50 percent more floor space compared with the Boeing 747, but airlines on average install only 35 percent more seats, using the extra space for roomier cabins and customized areas. Well-documented examples of ‘A380 extravaganza’ include the onboard First Class shower on Emirates’ A380 and the Absolut Vodka-branded lounge and inflight duty free store on Korean Air’s A380.

10 airlines currently operate an A380
As of end of January 2014, 16 airlines have ordered 304 aircraft of the passenger version of the superjumbo. Currently 123 A380s are in operation worldwide (graph here) and 10 airlines have taken delivery of an A380 so far: Singapore Airlines (2007), Qantas, Emirates (2008), Air France (2009), Lufthansa (2010), Korean Air, China Southern (2011), THAI Airways, Malaysia Airlines (2012), and British Airways (2013). With a total order of 140 A380s, of which 44 have been delivered, Emirates accounts for nearly half of the orders.

This year, four more airlines will receive their first A380, including three carriers who regularly show up in the various ‘best airlines in the world’ rankings: Qatar Airways, Etihad, Asiana, plus Japanese hybrid low-cost carrier Skymark. These airlines will be followed by the final round of first A380 deliveries to Transaero in 2015, while orders at Hong Kong Airlines (2015) and Virgin Atlantic (2018) seem questionable. At the same time, Turkish Airlines reportedly will add four A380s to its fleet this summer for operation on slot-constrained routes to China.

Becoming the eleventh carrier to add the A380 to its fleet (just before Qatar Airways), Korea’s Asiana Airlines will introduce its first superjumbo in June this year on regional routes, before deploying the aircraft on the Seoul – LAX route in July or August. Asiana will take delivery of a total of six A380s — two in June of this year, two next year, and two in 2017.

Asiana’s A380 will be configured with 12 ‘OZ First Suites’ and 66 staggered ‘Smartium’ Business seats on the upper deck and 417 economy seats (106 on the upper deck and 311 on the lower deck), carrying a total of 495 passengers.
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Airlines take care of passengers’ winter coats until their return

In our recent “Innovative Airlines” report we identified airlines that are putting an effort to differentiate themselves with inventive and relevant services. On the 11th spot of our ranking was South Korea-based Asiana Airlines, which has been covered several times on because of thoughtful services such as ‘PreMom’ and ‘Happy Mom’.

Asiana ‘Coat Keeping Service’
Since 1999, Asiana also has been offering a ‘Coat Keeping Service’ at Seoul Incheon Airport during the winter season (December to March) so passengers can travel light to sunnier destinations. Asiana’s First and Business class passengers as well as members of its frequent flyer program (including Star Alliance members) can use the service. Passengers can check their coat with Asiana for free for 5 days, after which 100 miles will be deducted per additional day. Asiana has set up a keeping room at Incheon which can store four thousand coats simultaneously and says that in the past 12 years around 150 thousand passengers have left their coat.

Korean Air ‘Coat Storage Service’
Rival South Korean airline Korean Air has been providing a similar ‘coat storage service’ since 2008 for passengers leaving South Korea travelling to warmer destinations such as Hawaii, Australia and countries in South-East Asia. Korean Air provides the service to all passengers travelling internationally from Korea with either Korean Air or a code-sharing flight. However, after a five-day complimentary storage, a fee of KRW2,500 (USD 2.25, EUR 1,65) per day applies.

Korean Air has contracted the coat storage service to Hanjin Express (part of the same Hanjin conglomerate as Korean Air) and arranged a room to store 2,500 coats. Passengers’ coats will be hung on a sturdy plastic hanger wrapped in plastic sheet during storage. According to Korean Air, an average 250 passengers per day have used the service during the winter of 2009, up from 130 in 2008.
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Innovative airlines 2011: #11 Asiana Airlines

Completing our ‘11 innovative airlines’ list is Korea-based Asiana Airlines, the ‘Airline of the Year 2010,’ and one of the just six ‘5-star airlines’ in the world. Asiana has been covered several times on, for example because of its introduction of thoughtful services like ‘PreMom’ and ‘Happy Mom,’ which make life easier easier for expectant mothers and families travelling with infants. Since 1999, Asiana also offers a ‘coat storage service’ at Seoul Incheon Airport during the winter season for passengers travelling to sunny destinations.

Cabin crew as differentiator
Other innovative services from Asiana include an onboard chef and sommelier, introduced in November 2010, as well as a sushi chef on select flights to Los Angeles. During summer holiday season of 2009, Asiana cabin crew offered in-flight make-up services and performed magic shows for kids. In fact Asiana’s service standards are so well regarded the airline was asked by the Korean government to share its service expertise with Korean restaurants in Japan, China and the United States in a series of education seminars.

Seats and AVOD upgrade
Besides its focus on the softer human-side of the travel experience, Asiana in June 2010 started an USD70 million upgrade program, introducing new flat-bed seats in Business Class – which reduced the number of business-class seats from 32 to 24. The upgrade program also includes a new AVOD IFE system on both long and short-haul aircraft, making Asiana one of the few airlines to offer free AVOD on short-haul flights. 

Although the airline is currently facing some serious liquidity problems due to an overly ambitious acquisition by its parent company Kumho of a logistics company, Asiana just announced it will buy six A380s as it challenges larger rival Korean Air on intercontinental routes. Deliveries of the A380s will begin from April 2014, and Asiana in 2016 will also receive the first of 30 A350s it has on order.

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Asiana and Turkish Airlines latest carriers to introduce inflight chefs

In 2010, airlines such as Air New Zealand, ANA and Cathay Pacific have further raised industry standards by rolling out new cabin interiors. In recent years several airlines have also been investing in ‘softer’ elements of the inflight experience, such as inflight concierges (ANZ), Sky Nannies (Gulf Air) and onboard bar tenders (Emirates, Kingfisher and Virgin Atlantic). To add an extra dimension to the inflight dining experience, airlines such as Gulf Air, British Midland and Austrian Airlines have also employed ‘Sky Chefs’ for several years. Recently, these carriers have been joined by Asiana and Turkish Airlines.

Asiana ‘Inflight Chef and Somelier’
Asiana Airlines (winner of the 2010 Airline of the Year award) has just announced a new ‘Onboard Crew Chef & Sommelier’ service in First and Business Class on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles as well as Seoul and Frankfurt. The restaurant-like service is provided by Asiana flight attendants who have acquired licenses from international cuisine schools (e.g, Le Cordon Bleu) and sommelier courses (e.g, M.C. Sommelier, Wine & Sprit Education Trust) under an  airline program that supports staff to take service courses at world-class institutions.

Asiana’s ‘Chef Service’ is formed by a team of three flight attendants who wear chef uniforms and serve a variety of Canapés and Lamb Chop dishes that have been developed by themselves. As part of the ‘Sommelier Service’ flight attendants decant wines and provide guidance in chosing the wine. The ‘Chef & Sommelier’ service will initially be provided just once a month on the two routes mentioned, but Asiana says it will soon increase the number of attendants with chef and sommelier skills and expand the service to New York flights by the end of 2010 as well. Since 2006, Asiana also employs an onboard sushi chef in First Class on flights between Incheon and Los Angeles, which provides passengers with freshly made sushi as well as some ‘culinary theater’ (see also this video).
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Asiana extends ‘Happy Mom’ service with ‘PreMom’ package for expectant parents

Last year, we reported on Asiana’s ‘Happy Mom’ service, which aims to make life easier for families traveling with infants by offering dedicated check-in counters at the airport, and free breast feeding nursing covers, baby slings, and car seat-like baby seats in the air. South Korea-based Asiana Airlines says the Happy Mom service has proved to be very popular so it decided to extend the service to couples who are expecting a baby. 

PreMom Service
Started at November 1st 2010, Asiana’s new ‘PreMom’ service aims to solve the inconveniences that expected mothers face at airports and inside cabins during traveling. Services of the PreMom package include an exclusive check-in counter at the airport to minimize waiting time and an electric cart service to transport expectant mothers (and companions) to the departure gates 50 minutes before takeoff. 

At the gate priority boarding is offered in order to give pregnant women the maximum amount of space to move through the aisles of the aircraft. Onboard, front row seating is also provided to minimize the walking distance and to allow for easier access to the toilet. Asiana also hands out sleeping socks to keep expecting mothers warm and to help their blood circulation. A brochure with information on cabin stretching and airline regulations for travelling when pregnant is also handed out. Finally, Asiana Airlines has developed a special priority tag so checked luggage will be delivered more quickly upon arrival. In a clever commercial move, the socks, brochure and luggage tags are sponsored by Korean baby brand PreBebe.
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Cathay Pacific and Asiana publicly share their service expertise

Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern carriers have been dominating the Skytrax World Airline Awards for years. In fact, in the past decade, British Airways (2006) has been the only Western carrier to capture the ‘Airline of the Year’ award. Skytrax surveys passengers on their opinion on 38 different items for each airline’s products and services. Two recent winners of the ‘Airline of the Year’ award, Cathay Pacific (2009) and Asiana (2010) have recently been sharing their service expertise with the outside world. Both airlines are also two of just six airlines in the world that have been awarded a ‘5 star’ status by Skytrax. 

Cathay Pacific has just launched a new book, called ‘Service in the Sky’, in which it shares its expertise in training cabin crew. Written by training instructors from the Cathay’s Inflight Services Training & Development department, ‘Service in the Sky’ includes 24 real case studies depicting difficult situations and recommended approaches, articles on different aspects of Cathay Pacific’s service beliefs and its training philosophy and techniques. The book also contains the airline’s cabin crew training modules, and cabin crew job requirements and application processes. Cathay says passengers expect more when they fly than when they travel on other modes of public transport, and while the articles are largely related to the airline’s operations, the underlying principles can easily be applied to other service-related industries. Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Sunnyside Club, a charity launched by Cathay Pacific staff. Read full article

Smart tray table cover designs help keep kids busy inflight

A new range of smartly designed products is helping to ease air travel easier for parents traveling with kids. Dubbed ‘inflight entertainment for kids’, these sleeve-style play centers can be slided over any airplane seat tray table, turning it into an activity center, so infants can be kept busy when in flight. 

For toddlers aged 6 to 24 months, the Air Play is a double-sided tray table cover activity center that is designed to fit over most airplane tray tables. It has different features on each side so that a child can play whether the tray table is down or stowed in its upright and locked position. The brightly colored tray cover’s activities include a crinkle strip, repositionable geometric shapes, different color ball beads,  an oversized buckle, button and zipper, as well as a peek-a-boo mirror; a photo album, and a mesh pocket that contains a soft dog character rattle toy. The Air Play Tray Table Cover retails for USD29.99 (EUR22.50/GBP20) and is available through online retailers such as and Babies R Us.
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Asiana’s ‘Happy Mom’ service helps make life easier for flying families

South Korea-based Asiana Airlines is rolling out a new service to make life easier for families traveling with infants. Asiana’s somewhat traditionally named ‘Happy Mom’ service lets young families use dedicated check-in counters at the airport, and onboard the airline provides free breast feeding nursing covers, baby slings, and car seat-like baby seats. 

More specifically, on the ground Asiana provides what it calls the ‘3E services’ – Express Check In, Express Boarding and Express Baggage – to allow young families to shorten the waiting period at airports. Acknowledging that mothers face difficulties in feeding their infants onboard (usually, feeding takes place in the toilets or the galleys of the aircraft), Asiana provides breastfeeding covers, which allow mothers to remain in their seat, and at the same time have some privacy when feeding their baby. For parents with infants that are too large or heavy (often babies older than 6 months) to fit in a bassinet, Asiana  in association with Agabang, a Korean manufacturer of baby products, developed an infant sling, so parents can sit more comfortable with their baby during the flight. Parents of older toddlers can also request a baby safety seat to be installed, so they do not have to bring their own.
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