Negligent accidents are plaguing Korean Air, Korea's No. 1 airline. Among these, most accidents were caused by aircraft defects, and the passengers bore the resulting damage, such as return to flight and delayed departure. This is not befitting of Korea's leading airline.
Korean Air's accident history goes back a year. Last April, a Korean Air plane departing from Incheon International Airport to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, turned back an hour after takeoff due to a spark in the engine.
The A330 aircraft had to make emergency landings and return due to engine failure three times in July, October, and December of last year, and in April of this year, three cases of aircraft failure occurred. Last August, Flight KE081 (A380), which took off from Incheon International Airport, was found to have had a problem with its landing gear about 30 minutes after takeoff and was diverted.
Also, at 4:40 p.m. on November 29, Korean Air Flight KE 671 from Incheon to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had a crack in the cockpit window and was diverted two hours after takeoff. There have been no casualties due to accidents that have occurred so far, but as situations like this repeat, passengers' anxiety is bound to increase.
As accidents became more frequent, Korean Air's safety evaluation fell one grade. According to the 2022 Air Transportation Service Evaluation results announced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport on May 24 this year, Korean Air was involved in an accident involving contact between aircraft during ground movement (London, September 2022) and runway departure during landing (Cebu, Philippines, October 2022). It decreased compared to the previous year (A-Grade).
The Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Won Hee-ryong, held 'Aviation Safety Emergency Meeting' with the CEOs of 11 national airlines, including Korean Air, last year and said, "The public's concerns have exceeded the normal level due to a series of recent aviation accidents." "It is time to inspect and develop an action plan," he said. Even after Minister Won's emphasis, Korean Air's safety could have improved.
Korean Air is putting all its efforts into completing the Asiana Airlines merger and acquisition, but the situation is challenging.
As the Asiana Airlines board of directors decided to sell the cargo division on the 2nd of last month, there is an assessment that the merger of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, which has been promoted since November 2020, has passed a critical juncture. Still, it's been one thing and another. The merger of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines depends on approval from the European Union, the United States, and Japan.
To obtain conditioned acceptance of the merger from the European Commission (EC), Korean Air submitted a corrective action plan to the EC stating, 'After the business combination, we will pursue the sale of Asiana Airlines' cargo business.' The plan is to receive approval for the merger from the EC by the end of January next year and then obtain approval from competition authorities in the US and Japan.
Employment anxiety for Asiana Airlines employees grows as the merger process is prolonged. According to Asiana Airlines' quarterly report on the 23rd, the number of full-time employees at the company as of the end of September was 7,998, a decrease of 68 compared to the second quarter of last year (8,066). The number decreased by about 20 people per month. As the corporate merger process with Korean Air has yet to be completed, new hiring at Asiana Airlines has stopped.
Korean Air announced that it has already paid more than 100 billion won in consulting fees related to the business combination with Asiana. Korean Air could not avoid criticism for neglecting safety management while focusing only on the merger. Korean Air has not resolved the uncertainty of the merger.
Korean Air has about 150 aircraft, of which 31 are over 20 years old. Is Korean Air spending boldly on merger advisory fees but stingy with safe investments? Korean Air posted the phrase 'Excellence in Flight' on its official SNS account. Doubts are strong over whether the word perfection that Korean Air is known for has a different meaning.
Last June, Chairman Cho said in an interview with Bloomberg TV regarding the Asiana Airlines merger issue, “We have put 100% on this,” and added, “No matter what we have to give up, we will make the merger happen.” Ultimately, was it the passenger's safety that he gave up?
The link to the Korean version of this article is as below.
By_BK Min, KDFN