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Korean airlines are choosing Airbus planes because of Boeing’s safety concerns

Korean airlines are choosing Airbus planes because of Boeing’s safety concerns

The fuselage plug area of ​​Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was forced to make an emergency landing, is seen during the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation in Portland, Oregon, January 7.  Reuters-Yonhap

The fuselage plug area of ​​Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX, which was forced to make an emergency landing, is seen during the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation in Portland, Oregon, January 7. Reuters-Yonhap

By Lee Min Hyung

The country’s major airlines are showing a growing preference for Airbus planes amid inadequate quality control from scandal-tainted Boeing, whose defective planes are escalating safety problems across the industry, company officials said Tuesday.

Boeing has quickly lost its once-robust corporate reputation after its Boeing 737 MAX – operated by Alaska Airlines – lost a door plug panel during a flight in January because no bolts were installed on it.

Also in April, a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767 plane made an emergency landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after its mid-air exit slide fell off.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 also returned to Denver International Airport last month after its engine cowling fell off during takeoff.

Considering that any airline could take a serious hit to its revenues and reputation in the event of such a disruption, Airbus aircraft are increasingly preferred by Korean aviation players, major airline officials said here.

“Boeing’s successive involvement in safety scandals is pushing more airlines to opt for Airbus aircraft,” an airline official said here. “Safety problems are escalating day by day, so it is natural that airlines show more preference for aircraft not manufactured by Boeing.”

In March, Korean Air, the country’s flag carrier, signed a contract with Airbus to purchase 33 state-of-the-art A350 aircraft with an investment of US$13.7 billion (18.61 trillion won).

Asiana Airlines also operates 69 passenger planes, but only 10 of them are Boeing.

T’way Air will also borrow Airbus A330-200 aircraft from Korean Air for its new routes to Europe.

“After Boeing was embroiled in a series of scandals over its defective aircraft, airlines’ preference for Airbus is rapidly increasing,” the official said. “As far as I know, foreign airlines are reacting more sensitively to the issue than their Korean counterparts.”

Southwest Airlines, a US carrier, said it will not add the Boeing MAX 7 planes to its fleet this year.

Another low-cost airline official said the preference for Airbus is expected to continue until safety issues are resolved.

“Being involved in any kind of safety controversy is the worst-case scenario from the airlines’ perspective,” the official said. “Even if multiple factors – such as delivery time – are taken into account when introducing new aircraft, few airlines are willing to sign a contract to introduce aircraft linked to defect scandals.”

Boeing delivered just 83 planes in the first quarter of this year, a 47 percent drop from 157 in the previous quarter, amid ongoing safety concerns.