New Korean hybrid will offer industry-leading economy legroom

by John Walton
May 09, 2019
Korean Air Premia seating
Air Premia's plans mean that the amout of legroom in its economy class will be world-leading. Photo: Recaro

Fresh off the back of signing a deal for three leased Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, new Korean carrier Air Premia is revealing an onboard product that includes a roomy economy class and recliner-type premium economy.

The Seoul-based hybrid carrier, which is in the process of starting up to compete with hometown leviathans Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, secured an air operator’s certificate earlier this year.

“Air Premia combines low-seat-density strategy, 35-inch economy, and 42-inch premium economy, with high operational efficiency, single fleet and seat configuration, which allows the company to deliver the best-in-class comfortable seats and services at reasonable prices,” the airline says.

READ: Hawaiian looks to expand Japan network.

Indeed, a 35-inch standard seat pitch would be to my knowledge the most offered in standard economy class by any airline, although local competition Korean Air and regional rival Japan Airlines both offer relatively spacious seat pitch compared with many other carriers.

It’s going to be a superb seat too: “CL3710” may not exactly roll off the tongue but it’s one of the best fully-featured economy class seats, whose structure and kinematics maximize the amount of knee space available for passengers.

Air Premia’s selection is another impressive win for both German manufacturer Recaro and for the passenger experience. Given its very generous seat pitch, it seems to me that the airline’s CL3710 is up there with other carriers’ extra-legroom ‘economy plus’ style offerings.

Premium economy onboard Air Premia will see the Recaro PL5350, one of the better premium economy options on the market.

Korean Air Premia seating
The premium economy PL3530 is an impressively customizable product. Photo: Recaro

“With its ergonomic design and numerous configuration possibilities, Recaro’s PL3530 premium economy class seat also delivers ultimate comfort and functionality,” says the German seat maker, explaining that the “individually adjustable calf rest, foot bar, stowage and privacy features contribute to a better flight experience and passenger comfort.

A wide range of customizable options allows carriers to create their own premium product and find a perfect balance between comfort and economics.”

This ability for customization is increasingly popular among airlines, and particularly in premium economy where there’s not a lot of clear blue water between the premium economy aboard airline X versus that of airline Y.

The airline plans to start service next September, with long-haul routes including Los Angeles and San Jose (south of San Francisco near Silicon Valley) mooted from 2021.

Honolulu and Vancouver are included in what Air Premia calls “further target destinations” as the airline takes up more aircraft, with Munich and Cairns also previously mentioned as part of its plans for a total of 10 787-9 Dreamliners by 2024.

Given that the routes involved are just about under the twelve-hour block time mark for their current operators, it would seem relatively feasible for the airline to operate each route daily with one aircraft, suggesting a total of ten daily services for the fledgling carrier in its first half-decade.

The evolution of the ‘hybrid airline’ concept is fascinating, with the airline promising “low-cost air travel with upscale and full-service features through a widebody service”.

South Korea’s booming tech sector and substantial middle-class population segment, combined with an extensive diaspora and its popularity as a holiday destination, suggest that Air Premia may have a greater chance than most airlines at success.

“As a hybrid airline we promise our passengers a combination of comfort and quality at a reasonable price,” chief executive officer Jong Chul Kim explains.

It sounds like Air Premia may well be able to deliver on that promise if it executes its onboard product plans well.