Asiana Airlines shows its true colors with new A380

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Asiana Airlines shows its true colors with new A380

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A newly painted Asiana Airlines A380 was rolled out for inspection Wednesday at the Airbus plant in Hamburg, Germany. This year, the carrier will take delivery of two A380s. [Joint Press Corp]

HAMBURG, Germany - In Germany’s second-largest city, it’s not difficult to see many containers and dockyards on the Elbe River that empties into the North Sea. But this city is about more than shipping and logistics.

Fifteen kilometers (9.3 miles) from downtown, you can also see rows of parked airliners. Hamburg is the home of Airbus’ German operations, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of commercial passenger aircraft.

Employees of Asiana Airlines, Korea’s second-largest carrier, have grown very familiar with the city as the affiliate of Kumho Asiana Group prepares to take delivery of its first A380, the most spacious and fuel-efficient airliner in service.

The latest state-of?the-art aircraft from Airbus signals a fresh start for Asiana after a fatal crash in San Francisco last July. Earlier this year, Asiana announced that its business plan under new CEO Kim Soo-cheon will focus on long-haul flights as low-cost carriers cannibalize short routes.

Executing the plan starts with the A380, the company emphasizes. It aims to begin flying the A380 in June from Tokyo and Hong Kong and expand to Los Angeles in August.

Asiana will take delivery of two A380s in June, two in 2015 and two in 2017.

On Wednesday, local time, Asiana’s first A380 with the airline’s colors and logo was rolled out at Airbus’ Hamburg plant. Airbus officials said the paint job was more complicated than most because seven colors - white, grey, blue, red, violet, orange and yellow - were used.

“Seven colors is a lot,” said Sean Lee, Airbus’ communications director for Asia. “It’s basically artwork.”

Inside, the 22,365-square-meter (241,000-square-foot) hangar no. 222, took 20 days to complete, according to Kai Heimes, deputy head of the paint shop at Airbus. The paint shop has 24 employees and operates around the clock, seven days a week.

“The tail is finished first because it is usually the most complicated section,” said Heimes. “We need high quality in this job.”

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Asiana’s A380 shows off its paint job at the Airbus plant in Hamburg, Germany.

Under Airbus manufacturing procedures, the tail is made first and painted before it is sent to Toulouse, France, for final assembly. Then the aircraft flies to Hamburg for final touches.

Airbus paint jobs have been praised by customers, including Asiana, for their quality and environmental responsibility. Airbus is the only company granted an environmental certificate according to standard ISO 140001 that requires chromate-free paint.

In addition, there are four scrubbers per hangar to remove paint particles from the exhaust, and the water used is also purified and recycled for future use.

The Asiana inspection team that was in Hamburg this week gave its stamp of approval to the paint job, and the carrier will take delivery of the A380 in May. To ensure optimum performance, the airline purchased the Airbus’ full warranty program for 10 years - the fifth customer to do so.

Asiana is counting on its new flagship aircraft to boost its competitiveness in the global market. There are already 124 A380s in service, which are operated by 10 carriers. Emirates Airlines has 45, according to Airbus data, and Korean Air Lines has eight.

However, Asiana claims its A380 is different because it has a unique cabin design. The company hired award-winning London agency Tangerine to design the first-class, business-class and economy cabins for its new fleet.

“Compared to our rivals, we reduced the number of business class seats and expanded economy class to maximize efficiency of the aircraft and serve more customers,” said an Asiana spokesman. “Not only the design style but also conveniences for each class of seats have been improved with Tangerine’s ergonomic design for buttons and location of convenience features.”

Asiana’s A380 has 495 seats - 12 first class, 66 business and 417 economy, which the airline calls “travel” class. As a part of its differentiated strategy, it has upgraded premium seats like “first suite” and “business smartium” seats.

First-suite seats, which provide 83 inches of space, are equipped with a 32-inch HD LCD display and twin sliding doors for added privacy. They even include induction ovens for fresh in-cabin meals.

Business seats have a staggered, zig-zag layout, enabling passengers to have easier direct access to their seats and more privacy, and a full-flat sleep option.

The airline also enhanced its economy class by adding more leg room by reducing the size of the seats.

Meanwhile, to successfully operate the A380, Asiana said its cockpit and cabin crews are undergoing various training programs. The airline currently has 36 repair and maintenance employees in the A380 program, and has acquired $71 million in parts and $5 million in tools and equipment to ensure the best repairs and maintenance.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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