+ A

Asiana flights delayed as supplier runs out of meals

July 03,2018
Fifty-one international flights operated by Asiana Airlines were delayed on Sunday because the country’s second-largest carrier couldn’t get its in-flight meals onboard in time - or at all.

Over half of Asiana’s delayed flights took off undersupplied or without any in-flight meals on Sunday, the first time since 2001 that the carrier has failed to provide in-flight meals on a long-distance flight.

The problem occurred as Asiana changed its in-flight meals supplier. Until June 30, meals were provided by Lufthansa subsidiary LSG Sky Chefs, but the carrier opted to change to smaller catering firm Sharp DO&CO.

Sharp DO&CO, used to preparing about 3,000 in-flight meals a day, apparently failed to handle the sudden increase in demand. Roughly 25,000 passengers fly from Incheon with Asiana every single day.

The debacle wasn’t the fault of bad planning on Asiana’s part - they never intended to work with Sharp DO&CO.

Last February, Kumho Asiana’s holding company Kumho Buslines inked a 30-year deal with China’s HNA Group to have their joint venture Gate Gourmet Korea serve as the sole in-flight caterer for Asiana at Incheon Airport. HNA Group operates Hainan Airlines, China’s fourth-largest airline.

The joint venture was accompanied by HNA’s investment of 160 billion won ($142 million) in Kumho Buslines bonds with warrants. At the time, Park Sam-koo, chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, was trying to procure funds to reclaim his position as the major shareholder of beleaguered tire unit Kumho Tire.

Disaster struck this March when a fire at the construction site for Gate Gourmet Korea’s factory meant it would be impossible for Asiana to start using the service in July. As a temporary measure, the airline decided to work with Sharp DO&CO for three months.

Before being dropped in favor of HNA, LSG Sky Chefs filed a complaint with the Fair Trade Commission last year arguing that Asiana had demanded investment in its holding company in return for extending their contract.

“In the process of renegotiating the in-flight catering service [last August],” said an LSG spokesman, “Kumho Asiana unfairly requested that we buy 160 billion won worth of bonds with warrants issued by Kumho Buslines.”

The sum that LSG claims Kumho requested coincides with the amount invested by HNA Group.

Though Asiana began normal operations of its international flights on Monday, it is still struggling.

“Though we are still working to stabilize the supply of in-flight meals,” said a spokesman, “some flights are still being delayed. We will do our best to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”


BY KIM YOUNG-MIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]