For most Korean Air (KE) frequent fliers, the introduction of their new 787 fleet has been eagerly anticipated. The aircraft was bought to be used on longer ‘regional’ routes as well as filler on short haul flights as the airline is want to do with their long haul fleet of aircraft.
It was seen that the aircraft will most likely take over current A330-200/300 routes that the airline operates and since these aircraft are on the older end of the spectrum, the new 787s entering KE’s fleet will represent a huge product upgrade for passengers, especially in Prestige (Business) Class.
There has been a lot of speculation over what routes would get the 787s first – that’d give folks a better idea of just how Korean would officially deploy these airplanes. Well, the wait is over!
Korean Air has announced that Toronto Lester Pearson International Airport (YYZ) will be the first airport that will receive the new 787-9 on a regularly scheduled basis. Flights will begin on a daily basis in June 2017 and will take over from the current Boeing 777-300 in the long haul configuration.
In the meantime it wouldn’t be surprising to see the aircraft do a few test runs and crew familiarity training flights within the region from Seoul to Tokyo, Shanghai, Osaka, Hong Kong and the like.
The configuration for the new incoming aircraft has already been leaked and will feature six First Class enclosed suites, 18 staggered next generation Business Class seats with direct aisle access and 245 seats in Economy Class featuring a 13.5 inch IFE display screen, the biggest the airline has ever offered in this class.
First will be laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration, Business in a 2-2-2 staggered format and Economy in a rather crunchy 3-3-3 (especially for flights of this stage length) layout. Let’s just hope that KE retains the generous 33 inch pitch in Economy which they offer on the rest of their wide body fleet.
After the addition of Toronto and as more aircraft arrive, Zurich, Madrid and Vienna will be the next flights up for the upgrade to the 787-9 in October, 2017. All are going be upgraded from the current 777-200’s flying the routes, which again represents a massive upgrade on the onboard product.
The 787-9 is a great addition to Korean Air’s fleet and given that they will uniformly offer the best KE hard product, this is a massive boon for those living in the aforementioned cities, with frequent fliers from Toronto benefitting most.
The current 777s that do these routes mostly feature the older first generation life flat seat that KE introduced nearly 10 years ago, and these frames are also nearly 20 years of age at this point. It’s likely that most of these aircraft will be sold off as more 789’s come into the fleet rather than starting new routes with them – though keep an eye out for a few staying and new routes starting.
It’s a pity that US based fliers don’t get the new aircraft just yet – at just 245 seats total, it’s a rather low density plane to use for the very high demand flights to the US that KE operates. As it stands the new product seen here on the 787 is offered on select flights to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta – but it can be a bit of a crapshoot whether you’ll actually end up on it or not given that all of these flights save for Atlanta are operated by the 777 which has varied products (ATL gets the 747-8i).
And a final note on this – we had mentioned new routes – and some of the whispers we’re hearing is that Boston is a prime new destination to be opened by KE and the 787-9 is the perfect aircraft for the route. The 747-400 is being gradually phased out, the 777 and 747-8i offers too much capacity and the A330 can’t make the flight – so that leaves the 789 as the perfect comprise to start new flights to this gaping hole in KE’s network…keep your ears peeled!
Are you excited with the new KE 787s coming online? If you are New York based as Joey is, would you make the slight detour to Toronto before heading out to Asia to experience this new product?