Earlier this month, LG Display was desperately seeking a way to dispatch key personnel to China to put its organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panel factory in Guangzhou, China into operation within April. LG Display urgently asked Korean Air for help. A total of 290 LG Display employees arrived safely in Guangzhou via Korean Air’s flight KE865, which took off at Incheon International Airport at 8:55 a.m. on March 26.
Industry watchers are wondering how Korean Air could carry the LG Display officials to China. There was something strange in the process. The KE856 was a regular flight operated by Korean Air. The number shows it is not a charter flight, which has a four-digit number. Analysts say that Korean Air's smart idea allowed it to complete its mission to send LG Display employees on a chartered business trip to China in a short period of time.
Korean Air used a regular flight already approved by the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Chinese government to operate a charter plane, a Korean Air official said. Air routes are largely divided into regular and irregular routes and charter flights are classified as irregular routes because they are usually one-time services. After the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Chinese government restricted the operation of regular international routes. It is more difficult to win approval from the Chinese government on irregular services.
Korean Air took a different approach. The company decided to use a regular flight exclusively for the employees of LG Display. This became possible as Korean Air made a decision to suspend regular routes to Guangzhou in March. “It was the resumption of a route that had already been suspended, so only LG Display employees were allowed to board,” the official said. For this reason, LG Display employees became the first businesspeople to go to China using a charter after the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport also gave support to Korean Air. Korean Air needed a separate permit from the ministry to re-operate a regular flight and a charter flight. The permit was given to Korean Air without any difficulties. “The COVID-19 crisis was blocking flights to China from Korea, so the Korean government is helping Korean airlines run charter flights as much as possible,” said a ministry official.