Korean Air will debut inflight Wi-Fi on new aircraft deliveries, which will start the airline's new fleet renewal phase, scheduled for 2020.

The Seoul-based carrier expects to receive its first Airbus A321neos in July 2020, while additional Boeing 787-9 orders are scheduled to arrive from September, Korean Air VP-planning Hoyoon Jeong said.

Korean’s Boeing 737 MAX orders are also likely to be delivered in 2020, although the timing will depend on when regulators clear the aircraft for operation.

Korean Air intends to have an onboard Wi-Fi system installed on these new deliveries. Retrofitting such a system in its existing fleet will occur later, airline executives said during a media briefing in Seoul.

The carrier is not yet revealing which Wi-Fi provider it is working with; Korean’s pricing model for the service is still under consideration. One possibility is that it would be offered as a benefit to premium customers.

Deliveries of Korean’s A321neos and 737 MAXs have both been significantly delayed. The airline has 30 of each type on order. Korean Air has managed the delays by increasing aircraft utilization rates in its current fleet, Jeong said, noting the airline’s fleet is large enough to be able to cover for the late deliveries without disruption. The MAX aircraft will be used to replace Korean’s 737NGs, some of which may be sent to LCC subsidiary Jin Air.

Korean has 10 787-9s and 10 787-10s on order, with another 10 of the -10s coming from lessor Air Lease Corp. Deliveries of the -10s are expected to begin about a year after the -9s in late 2021, Jeong said. Korean currently operates 10 787-9s.

Jeong said the 787s are intended for both fleet replacement and growth. They will be used to increase capacity in Southeast Asia markets, where Korean is seeing the strongest demand growth. In addition, the -9s will replace older 777-200ERs, while the -10s will replace A330s.

The carrier has no plans to order any more widebody aircraft for the next five years, the executives said. Accordingly, it is not yet considering the Boeing 777X or other programs to replace its larger widebodies.

Like some other operators, Korean Air has recently been required to conduct extra inspections on the engines of its A220s. However, the airline is generally pleased with the operating performance of the A220s, according to the executives. The aircraft are currently mainly used on domestic routes, but Korean plans to expand their use on routes to nearby international markets in Japan and China. The airline currently has 10 A220s and has no plans to add more.

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com