Will aircraft age limit affect Korean freighter operators?

Air Incheon's two 737-400Fs are both well over 20 years old.
Air Incheon’s two 737-400Fs are both well over 20 years old, but will be exempt from the replacement requirement.

Eight South Korean airlines are reported to have signed an agreement with the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MLIT) to only operate aircraft of twenty years or younger.

At present, three of the eight carriers, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, and Air Incheon, operate a total of twelve aircraft outside the limit:

Of these, Korean Air was probably planning to retire its 747 pax units anyway, and its twenty-seven-unit freighter fleet is relatively young. Korean operates five very young 747-8Fs and 777Fs, and the the oldest of its seventeen 747-400Fs is only sixteen years old.

Asiana and Air Incheon, on the other hand, have a more serious problem with their freighter fleets:

Asiana operates six 747-400BDSFs, four 747-400Fs, and one 767-300F, as well as two 747-400 combis. As mentioned above, six of these (five -400BDSFs and one 747-400F) are already over twenty years old, but of the remainder all but two of the 400Fs are 18-to-20 years old, and will soon have to be replaced under the terms of the agreement.

Air Incheon is a small all-cargo operator, and the two over-the-limit 737-400Fs are the only aircraft it operates.

As we have reported in the past, we believe Asiana not only wants to refleet with 747-8Fs, but in fact was very close to a four-unit firm order – so close that Boeing began production based on the expectation of the order and is now in the process of finding homes for the two that have already been built. Given that Asiana has signed the agreement with MLIT, it seems likely that the freighter refleeting will be put back on the front burner.

But what will Air Incheon do? It appears that Air Incheon will not have to do anything, as the replacement requirements allow exemptions in certain circumstances — including low usage rates, and some aspects of P-to-F modification.

We will update this post as we learn more.

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