Asiana faces 45 day suspension at SFO

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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I have no idea if this will work but at least the Koreans are finding creative ways to try to get KE to wake the F up and improve training/safety. I’m in favor of this.

    1. Asiana is OZ. KE is Korean Air. Unless you’re suggesting that they’re sending a message to KE by suspending OZ.

    1. And UA’s SFO-ICN might see a bump in traffic as well. Given that both times I’ve flown it I was able to easily secure upgrades in advance of the day of travel I’d bet that the boost to premium fare traffic for UA would be most welcome.

      1. The Korean government has asked that other carriers pick up the slack, so it does make me wonder if United will add a few weekly flights to pick up some of the slack in addition to the often available space on their regularly scheduled flights.

    1. Yeah…that was bad math. Turns out my calculator wasn’t using the decimal point when I pressed it so multiplication got out of whack and it was too early in the morning for me to notice. Oops.

  2. Take that SFO. Don’t make us punish you anymore.

    This seems so silly. I know the airline will lose revenue but at the cost of passengers and routes. Seems so odd. How about just a fine.

  3. This must be one of the most idiotic punishments I’ve ever heard of.

    SFO gets its sea wall mangled, loses all sort of revenue from cancelled flights on that day and gets rewarded by … 45 days of loss of revenue from that flight?

    And passengers booked during those 45 days… why do they need the disruption placed on them?

    Fine OZ $20m and be done with it.

    Some bureaucracies are very puzzling to me!

    1. I’ll agree that on the face this punishment doesn’t make a ton of sense. Then again, how does taking $20mm from the company solve the underlying problem either? That’s not going to increase the pilot training levels at all.

      I get that a financial disincentive should theoretically make me not do something. But if I can afford the fine it stops really being a disincentive so long as the other financial factors are greater.

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