Korean Air beating Covid-19 odds makes it most deserving of aviation 'Oscar'

Korean Air's robustness was evident in its financial performance too, especially in the time of Covid-19

Korean Air beating Covid-19 odds makes it most deserving of aviation 'Oscar'
A Korean Air B777 flying over a burger joint in Los Angeles, US. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/airliners.net/Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

Korean Air reinforced its position as one of the leading airlines of the world when it won the aviation 'Oscar'.

Korean Air was chosen as the '2021 Airline of the Year' for 'coping with Covid-19 excellently' as part of the Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards by Air Transport World (ATW), ANI reported. The prestigious award is known as the Oscar of the aviation industry. The awards ceremony would be held in Boston in the US on October 5.  

The ATW Annual Airline Industry Achievement Awards were established in 1974 "to recognise excellence in the air transport industry". These awards are bestowed upon individuals and organisations that have made a mark through "outstanding performance, innovation and superior service". 

Other winners for 2021 were JetBlue (Airline Market Leader), United Airlines (Eco Airline of the Year), Qatar Airways Cargo (Cargo Operator of the Year), Viva Aerobus (Value Airline of the Year), Incheon International Airport (Airport of the Year) and Alexandre de Juniac, former Director-General of the International Air Transport Association (Excellence in Leadership). 

The award this year was the 47th edition. ATW is an online and print trade publication, which is a sister concern to Aviation Week, Aviation Daily and MRO Digest, which are all part of the Aviation Week Network Group. 

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ATW analyses global airline operations, market conditions, regulatory and environmental developments, government affairs, global alliances, airline ticket distribution, management strategy, financials, airports and routes, aircraft and engines, supply chain and related issues. Editors select the winners of the annual ATW Airline Industry Achievement Awards based on the nominees' operational and financial performance, customer service, safety record, innovation, labour relations and executive leadership.

Korean Air, selected as the airline of the year, has completely deserved its award, setting high standards on several fronts. 

A Korean Air B777. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/Tomás Del Coro

According to the Safe Travel Barometer, which claims to be the world’s most comprehensive database of Covid-19 health and safety protocols and traveller experience initiatives announced by suppliers that influence the decision of travellers in the 'new normal' created in the wake of the pandemic, Korean Air has a perfectly respectable Safe Travel Score of 3.9 in terms of Covid-19 safety protocols, traveller convenience and service excellence. 

The airline undertakes disinfection after every flight and also undertakes thermal screening. It provides face masks for its staff and stresses on health declaration forms. The carrier has standard rebooking and cancellation policies and offers a 16-25 kg free check-in baggage allowance for domestic flyers and free baggage allowance of over 33 kg for international flyers. 

The carrier says on its website that every aircraft is disinfected before departure, using MD-125, claimed to be the "most effective disinfectant to eliminate coronavirus". The lounges are disinfected several times a day. Hygiene products, like hand sanitisers, are provided onboard, and individually wrapped food boxes are designed to minimise contact between passengers. Flyers with a body temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius and above are denied boarding. 

Korean Air planes arriving in Incheon from foreign airports undergo sterilisation. Aircraft bound for the US, China, and Italy are sterilised at all times. Other aircraft are sterilised once a week. If suspected cases of Covid take place in an aircraft, the aircraft is sterilised under the strictest quarantine measures, and then arranged for the next flight schedule.  

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The High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in the aircraft remove 99.9% of germs and viruses, the airline claims. Air is exchanged every two-to-three minutes through the air circulation system. "The sterilised air enters the cabin from the ceiling, creating a top-to-bottom flow, and the air is exchanged every two-to-three minutes. The airflow from top-to-bottom helps prevent the spread of contaminants within the cabin," Korean Air says. 

Strict hygiene control measures are followed for in-flight meal production too, including the use of disposable cutlery. Social distancing is also strictly followed. The airline says that it seeks to assign seats by maximising the distance between passengers wherever possible and has installed plexiglass screens at airport counters and lounges. The airline insists on self-check-in services through its website, mobile application or kiosk so that passengers can minimise interaction and contact.

For the benefit of passengers, the Covid-19 Update Centre on the airline's website provides the latest flight information and entry restrictions in different countries. Korean Air's 'Care First' programme ensures the "cleanest and safest environment possible", providing multiple layers of protection to the passengers. Under the 'back to front zone boarding', passengers seated at the back of the aircraft are asked to board first. 

Korean Air's robustness was evident in its financial performance too, especially in the time of Covid-19. The carrier was the only South Korean airline to have not reported operating losses in the first quarter of this year, The Korea Herald reported. 

Korean Air is the largest airline and flag carrier of South Korea. The present-day Korean Air was established on March 1, 1969, after the Hanjin Group acquired the state-owned Korean Air Lines, which had flown since June 1962.    

Cho Won-Tae, Chairman, Hanjin Group, said, "It is an honour to be selected for the prestigious ATW Airlines of the Year award. The selection of ATW is due to the dedication and sacrifice of our executives and employees who endured the worst situation under Covid-19."

(Cover image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/airliners.net/Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)