Korean Air has agreed the takeover of rival Asiana Airlines in a £1.15 billion deal prompted by the Covid crisis.
Korean’s initial investment will allow Asiana to continue operating until the end of this year. In normal times, both carriers operate to Heathrow, but Asiana’s disappearance will lead to a monopoly on the London route, which British Airways or Virgin Atlantic may look to break.
Korean Air’s owners Hanjin said: “Once Korean Air completes its acquisition of Asiana Airlines, the airline is expected to be ranked as one of the top 10 in the world.
“In general, countries with a population less than 100 million have a single full-service carrier. However, Korea has two full service carriers, which gives it a competitive disadvantage compared to countries like Germany, France and Singapore with a single major airline.
“Korean Air’s acquisition and the expansion of its routes, fleet and capacity will give the airline the competitiveness to compete with global mega-airlines.”
The SkyTeam member added that more slots secured at Seoul’s Incheon airport “may lead to an increase in joint ventures with global airlines and greater transfer demand, which will also spur the growth of the domestic aviation industry”.
Korean Air carried 27 million passengers in 2019 and has 164 aircraft. Star Alliance member Asiana has 80 aircraft.
The deal comes as a Korean start-up carrier, Air Premia, prepares to take its first aircraft deliveries. It plans to serve destinations including Los Angeles with a small fleet of Boeing 787s.