Y.H. Cho, Chairman And CEO, Korean Air
Global Traveler: Korean Air’s service to China from the United States is quite extensive. How important are those routes for your airline?
Y.H. Cho: Not many people realize that we fly to more cities in China from more cities in the United States and Canada than any other airline, and we’re No. 1 in passengers carried across the Pacific from both LAX and JFK. China is one of our most significant markets since we fly to more than 20 cities there — Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai as well as many other cities that attract business and leisure travelers — with effortless connections through Incheon Inter-national Airport; consistently voted the world’s best airport by travelers and critics alike.
GT: Your air service to China is one thing U.S. passengers might not know about. What else should they know?
YHC: From ticketing to baggage claim, we want our customers to remember an effortless flight with enough diversions to make time pass by quickly. Our exclusive entertainment system has been highly praised. We offer both Western and Korean menus, so our passengers can choose something familiar or try some traditional Korean fare. And we’re extremely proud of our wine list that features vintages from around the world.
What really sets the Korean Air experience apart from our competition is our flight attendants. Their goal is to make each and every customer feel appreciated. Finally, service means on-time arrivals and departures, and we’re proud to say that among all Asian airlines, Korean Air has the best on-time departure record. When you combine on-time operations with a remarkable in-flight experience, you have an enviable and viable product.
GT: Some airlines have opted to eliminate first-class cabins, even on long-haul flights. Korean Air has kept, and even upgraded its firstclass product. Why?
YHC: We believe that there is a market for a first class product. Many airlines have opted to offer only business class — even across the Pacific — and there is a certain segment of the market that is not being served properly by them. We’re targeting that market with the message that Korean Air is better than their private jet. There are more entertainment choices, better food and certainly better service.
We’re gaining recognition for our efforts. Business travelers have voted us the “best transpacific business class” and “best airline in Asia,” awards of which I’m particularly proud considering the reputations of our airline competitors.
GT: Please tell us about your career at Korean Air.
YHC: I began working for Korean Air as a manager in the Americas Regional Headquarters in 1974 and have worked in almost every department since then. I have been chairman and CEO since 1999. I’m most proud of the fact that during my tenure as chairman, Korean Air has enjoyed enormous successes and refinements. We were a founding member of SkyTeam, along with Delta and Air France, which expanded our network to offer our customers service anywhere in the world, almost any time. We’ve successfully weathered numerous storms including SARS and 9/11, and have expanded around the globe, winning major international awards for both performance and service along the way.