Korean Air (KAL) is mulling over an order for regional jets in the next two years to operate on short-haul services to China and Japan.
"We are seriously considering buying single-aisle planes with 70-120 seats in one to two years," KAL chairman Cho Yang-Ho says in an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Asia edition. A spokesman from the SkyTeam alliance member confirms the comments.
"We would put these fuel-efficient planes on short-haul routes to China and Japan. We may inject the planes into routes operated by our budget carrier unit Jin Air as well," adds Cho.
Korean Air does not have any regional jets in its fleet, and Jin Air operates a fleet of five Boeing 737-800s.
The KAL spokesman says that it is "too early" to say how many regional jets the airline would order, or the make of aircraft that it would assess for its requirement.
Regional jet manufacturers Bombardier and Embraer would be keen to pitch their existing CRJ and E-Jet series of aircraft, if KAL goes ahead. Bombardier could also push its upcoming CSeries twinjet, although the 110-130 seat aircraft would be at the upper end of the scale.
Another option would be Japan's Mitsubishi Aircraft, which has been in South Korea in recent years promoting its MRJ regional jet. The first flight of the 90-seat MRJ90 is scheduled for the second quarter of 2012, with first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the first quarter of 2014. Mitsubishi is also developing a 70-80 seat MRJ70, and could launch a 100-seat variant as well.