Today, Korean Air celebrates its 50th anniversary serving the Americas.
On this date 50 years ago, a Korean Air Boeing 707 took off from Seoul Gimpo Airport, making stops in Tokyo and Honolulu before landing in Los Angeles. Korean Air’s inaugural passenger flight from Seoul to Los Angeles marked the beginning of the central role the airline would play in fostering economic and cultural relations between Korea and the U.S.
On this special occasion, Korean Air received a proclamation from the city of Los Angeles for its economic contributions.
50 years of contribution to the transpacific market
Since the launch of its first U.S. route, Korean Air has grown into one of the largest transpacific airlines.
The airline began by serving only two cities in the U.S. – Honolulu and Los Angeles. It now flies out of 13 gateways across North America with its Americas headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. While the airline carried about 43,800 passengers between the U.S. and Seoul in 1972, it flew over 3 million passengers between the U.S. and Korea in 2019 (pre-COVID).
The flying time has also been reduced to 11 hours from 17 hours on its nonstop flight. The airline initially used a 171-seater Boeing 707 on its first route to the U.S, and it now operates the Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 on the Americas routes.
Supporting the U.S. economy for 50 years
For the past 50 years, Korean Air has contributed greatly to the U.S. economy by propelling economic, social and cultural exchange between the two countries through both its passenger and cargo network.
Approximately 11,000 direct and indirect jobs have been created in related businesses in the 13 cities served by the airline, adding about USD 110 million per year in added value through labour market and consumption.
Pre-COVID, approximately 1.11 million Koreans travelled on Korean Air flights to the U.S. annually, and they are estimated to have spent about USD 4 billion during their stay.
Dedicated cargo terminals in Los Angeles and at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport support cargo operations for both Korean Air and other airlines, serving as hubs in both the Eastern and Western United States.
The airline is estimated to have created 100,000 jobs, and to have generated an economic effect of USD 17 billion over the past half century.
As a global leading airline
Since the launch of its first U.S. route, Korean Air has grown into a major global airline serving 120 cities in 43 countries. The airline not only co-founded the SkyTeam Alliance together with Delta Air Lines, Aeroméxico and Air France in 2000, but also launched a transpacific joint venture with Delta Air Lines in 2018, connecting customers to more than 290 cities in the US and 80 points in Asia. Its transpacific joint venture is considered the industry’s most comprehensive.
“As a proud joint venture partner, we want to congratulate Korean Air on the significant milestone of connecting the U.S. and Korea for a half-century,” said Matteo Curcio, Vice President – Asia Pacific, Delta Air Lines. “We look forward to working together to seamlessly connect even more customers between the Americas and Asia via our Incheon hub for years to come.”
Korean Air continued to serve the U.S. throughout the pandemic, and the airline delivered thousands of tons of cargo such as e-commerce products, semiconductor parts, medical supplies and COVID test kits, fruits and vegetables, and K-pop-related items. The airline also launched two new gateways in the U.S. – Rickenbacker International Airport (Columbus, Ohio) and Chicago Rockford International Airport (Rockford, Illinois) – that have strengthened the airline’s cargo transpacific network and helped alleviate some of the U.S. supply chain issues.