50th anniversary inbound! Find out which international airline has just recently celebrated half a century of flying to the USA – back in 1972, its first US services consisted of just two routes flown by the iconic Boeing 707. Can you guess? No need, just find out here…
Celebrations were held at Korean Air on April 19 as the company notched its 50th anniversary of serving the United States. To mark the occasion, the airline received a special proclamation from the city of Los Angeles thanking it for its contributions to the economy.
At present, the South Korean flag carrier flies to 13 gateways across North America using its state-of-the-art Boeing 777s and 787s. This is a world away from its initial offering in 1972 of flights to Honolulu and Los Angeles plied by the iconic 707.
Korean Air’s inaugural passenger sortie to the US took place on April 19, 1972, with the 171-seat quad jet departing Seoul/Gimpo and routing via Tokyo in Japan and Hawaii’s Honolulu before arriving into Los Angeles. Twelve months earlier, the airline had already launched a transpacific cargo route between Seoul and LA, also via the Japanese capital. In stark contrast, back in 1972 the passenger figures for those travelling between the US and the South Korean capital numbered approximately 43,800 annually, while in the pre-COVID-19 era in 2019, this had risen to more than three million.
Korean Air – a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance – revealed that prior to the introduction of global travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, roughly 1.11 million Koreans travelled on the carrier to the US annually, with spending estimated at almost $4bn during their stay.
In addition, over the past 50 years, the Seoul-based firm is estimated to have created more than 100,000 jobs internationally, while having “generated an economic effect of $17bn” over the same time period – and, in the process, boosting economic, social and cultural ties between the two countries.
Today, Korean Air is a major global player, serving 120 cities in 43 countries. It was originally established in March 1969, following the acquisition of state-owned Korean Air Lines.