Asiana Airlines may be forced to suspend operations between Seoul and San Francisco for a 45 day period. That is the ruling South Korea’s transport ministry handed down today in response to the July 2013 crash of OZ213 into the sea wall just short of the runway at SFO. The airline will appeal the decision but if the appeal fails the suspension must be carried out during the next six months, though the airline gets to choose the start date within that period.
The decision to suspend the flights was reached by a 7-member panel of Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. In a statement secured by Yonhap News Kwon Yong-bok, the head of the ministry’s aviation security division, suggested that the decision to issue a suspension rather than just a financial penalty was unanimous and unwavering:
All committee members agreed a suspension of operation was inevitable.
Kwon also noted that the law allows for a suspension of up to 90 days but that the panel chose to reduce that by half owing to the efforts the crew made to help passengers after the incident.
A suspension of the route has the potential to affect
more than two million passengers tens of thousands of passengers (sorry, bad math early in the morning), many of them connecting via Korea, which Asiana carries on the route in a typical 45-day period. Plus the company estimates the cost of such a suspension at more than $10mm. Moreover, it is difficult to quantify the long-term cost to the carrier of having a route suspended and the impact that could have on future bookings.
And, at the end of the day, there is the question of whether suspending operations on a route actually affects the safety levels of Asiana’s operation overall. Then again, simply issuing a fine doesn’t necessarily change those behaviors either.
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