Forget Business Class. Let alone First Class. Instead, imagine a Premium Economy Class and an Economy Class featuring the world’s largest pitch among seat rows. South Korean carrier Air Premia (YP) has been promising this for the last two years. Since when it was officially launched after receiving its Air Carrier Licence in March 2019. Then came the Covid pandemic and the airline, with its peculiar cabin configuration and business model, has been ‘frozen’. By visiting the airline’s web site the ‘freezing’ effect of the pandemic on the airline’s life is even more visible, as all press releases date back to 2019.
THE HISTORY SO FAR…
In July 2017 (which is when the company was officially incorporated), Air Premia secured initial investment of KRW 1.5bln (USD 1,4mln);
One year later (July 2018) a new investment of KRW 10.5bln (USD 13.5mln) was secured from Anchor Investors, with the airline closing a KRW 25bln (USD 22.5mln) Series A financing round in September the same year;
In October, the airline applied for an Air Carrier Licence;
In January 2019 KRW 165bln (USD 148mln) was collected in Series B round and the Boeing 787-9 selected for the fleet;
In April 2019 a lease agreement for 3 B787-9s powered by Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines was signed with Air Lease Corporation (ALC) with the first aircraft scheduled to be delivered in July 2020, the second in September 2020 and the third in November the same year. Plans were for 10 B787-9s to be operated within 2024. Air Operator Certificate was expected to arrive by July 2020 and inaugural flights to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Josè (SJC) on the US West Coast to inaugurate in September, coinciding with the arrival of the second aircraft;
In May 2019 Se Young Kim, a former Air Asiana Senior Vice President of International Business with 30 years of experience in the industry, was appointed as new CEO. This is the last press release available on the airline’s official website.
Six months later, Covid-19 started to hit China and Air Premia became a sort of a “virtual airline” with only a few names of executives and a head office in the Gangseo-gu district of Seoul to make it real;
At the beginning of April 2021, the first Boeing 787-9 sporting the Air Premia livery came out of the manufacturer’s plant in Everett and was delivered to the carrier as HL8387. The second and third aircraft, HL8388 and HL8389, were built in the Charleston plant and, as of May 9, they are still waiting for delivery.
Air Premia describes itself as a “Hybrid Service Carrier” meaning that its mission is to offer quality service at reasonably low prices. A model which was initially introduced in the industry (and then carried on successfully) by US airline JetBlue (B6). And one which Air Premia aims to extend to long- and very long-haul flights to Europe and North America. The Premium Economy + Economy cabin layout was introduced in long-haul operations by Norwegian (DY), and then followed by other leisure carrier including French Bee (BF) and Neos (NO).
The innovation brought by Air Premia stands in the exceptional level of comfort the South Korean carrier promises in point of personal space in both classes. Though its B787-9 will be configured for a total of 309 seats, the absence of First and Business Class allows very generous legroom onboard: the 56 Premium Economy seats feature 42 inches (107cm) pitch, with the 253 seats in Economy standing at 35 inches (89cm). Both are the widest in the industry worldwide. Only Japan Airlines (JL) on its Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787-9s sports a 42 inches seat pitch in Premium Economy, while the new such cabin recently introduced by Emirates ‘stops’ at 40 inches (101cm) and the industry average is around 38 inches (96cm). In Economy, Air Premia’s 35 inches top All Nippon Airways’ (NH) 34 inches (86cm), offered in the lowest-density configuration of the latter’s Boeing 787-9 fleet.
Air Premia’s Premium Economy is the first ever to be fitted by a South Korean carrier. Asiana’s (OZ) ‘Economy Smartium’ class is an extended legroom economy (an extra 3-4 inches for a total of 36 inches), while Korean Air’s (KE) three-class aircraft only have a standard economy cabin.
Considering the South Korean market only, the airline is seeking to fill a perceived gap between the Country’s two full-service carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines and low-costs including Jin Air (LJ), Jeju Air (7C) and Air Busan (BX), by serving long- and medium-haul routes that LCCs cannot fly, at fares lower than full-service carriers can provide. The ticket price for Economy Class is to be fixed at 80-90% of that offered by South Korean full-service carriers (FSCs), with Premium Economy fares at 140% of South Korean FSCs’ Economy fares.
No official announcement has been made, yet. Though, initial destinations from Seoul Incheon should be San José (SJC) in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles (LAX). In 2019 the airline was intentioned to serve Europe, as well
START OF OPERATIONS
No official announcement has been made, yet
(Photo header Twitter / Jen Schuld)