Korean upstart Air Premia launched service last week, joining the myriad airlines operating on the world’s busiest route between Seoul-Gimpo and Jeju Island. That inaugural came 18ish months later than initially planned. And the route is also not what the company ultimately intends. But it represents a major first step in operations, with Southeast Asia, Oceania and the USA coming soon.
Unlike other recent long-haul start-ups, however, Premia is not a low cost carrier. The company presents as a “value” carrier option, with more customer-friendly allowances, but still lower prices than the legacy operators.
Air Premia took delivery of its first 787-9 earlier this year, part of an initial trio of leased planes. The company hopes to expand the fleet to ten Dreamliners within five years. The company, pending US Department of Transportation approval, plans to inaugurate international service, including to the US, in 2022.
The first US destination should be Los Angeles. Air Premia targets Q2 2022 for that launch.
Air Premia plans a route network similar to Japan’s ZIPAir. The carrier will connect travelers between markets in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand to its hub, and then potentially on to North America. But the on-board experience will be rather different between the two.
ZIPAir offers a fully-flay business class bed on board for a limited number of passengers. In the economy cabin a bog-standard 31″ pitch offering gets plenty of passengers into the aircraft. Air Premia comes at the market differently, however.
Air Premia’s 787-9 seats 309 passengers in a lower-density arrangement. Norwegian pushed its 787-9 to 344 seats on board, four additional rows of travelers.
Economy class passengers on Air Premia get a spacious 35-inch pitch. Premium economy increases that to 42 inches. But the carrier still believes it can undercut pricing of the legacy operators. It aims to price economy at a 20% discount to the full service carriers. A 40% premium over economy fares is targeted for Premium Economy seats.
Following the Los Angeles service Air Premia plans to add San Jose, California to its transpacific route map. Honolulu and Vancouver could follow.
All of that depends, of course, on a recovery in the international travel markets. And on the long-haul, value carrier play working out. Long-haul LCCs have come up short time and again while few have tried the more premium approach.
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