Korean Air contracted for up to 102 new single-aisle aircraft – contracts estimated to total about $10 billion, or perhaps more, if all options are exercised. The carrier placed orders for 50 jets from Airbus SAS and up to 52 jets from Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and in the process selected both OEM’s emerging new models for the narrow-body aircraft sector.
The orders with both suppliers were announced in conjunction with the 2015 Paris Air Show, the biannual gathering of commercial aircraft builders, suppliers, and carriers.
Korean Air signed a "memorandum of understanding" for Airbus to build and supply up to 50 A321neo aircraft, an order detailed as 30 jets plus options for 20 more. Though Airbus did not indicate the value of the order, if all options are exercised it would be valued at $6.22 billion at the A321neo’s current list price of $124.4 million.
The Airbus A320neo aircraft was developed to replace the Airbus A320 family – with "neo" indicating the “new engine option” (either CFM International’s LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G engine). Airbus adopted aerodynamic improvements, weight savings, and various improvements to the cabin design, as well as the new engine options, to improve fuel-burn, emissions, and passenger comfort.
The first Airbus A320neo to enter service will take off in October for Qatar Airways.
Airbus said Korean Air would operate the A321neo with a two-class layout on regional routes, including longer distances to some Southeast Asian destinations.
“The A321neo will bring new levels of efficiency, longer flying range and greater in-flight comfort to our single aisle fleet, as well as reduced impact on the environment,” according to Cho Yang Ho, chairman of Korean Air Group
“This agreement marks another milestone in the long-standing relationship between Korean Air and Airbus,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President & CEO. “It’s also a very significant endorsement of the advantages offered by the A321neo at the top end of the single aisle market. We look forward to seeing the A321neo take to the skies in the colors of Korean Air, flying alongside the airline’s existing Airbus wide-body fleet.”
In its other announcement, also from the Paris Air Show, Boeing and Korean Air announced the airline's intent to purchase 30 737 MAX aircraft and two more 777-300ER (Extended Range) jets, with options for an additional 20 737 MAX jets. The agreement is valued at approximately $3.9 billion at current list prices, according to Boeing.
"This agreement reflects Korean Air's ongoing fleet modernization program, and we are committed to introducing new next-generation airplanes that are environmentally friendly and fuel efficient, while also providing maximum comfort to our passengers," stated Walter Cho, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Korean Air.
The 737 MAX will be the redesigned series of Boeing’s 737 family, set to replace the current 737 Next-Generation version. It adopts larger, more efficient engines (CFM International LEAP-1B) engines, and airframe changes intended to make the jet lighter and roomier for passengers.
The first 737 MAX is due to be delivered in 2017, with Southwest Airlines as the launch customer.