Korean Air held a special ceremony on 4 March to celebrate its 50th anniversary with over 1,500 employees at its headquarters in Seoul, Korea.

Korean Air was launched as a small Asian carrier with only eight aircraft on 1 March, 1969. Today, after decades of developing new routes, service innovation, and continuous investment, Korean Air has become a leading global airline, flying to 124 cities in 44 countries.

President of Korean Air Walter Cho said at the event that the company will strive to improve employees’ happiness, build a constructive rapport with business partners, enhance customer satisfaction, and maximize shareholder value.

“We will do our best to satisfy our customers, raise the happiness of our employees and enhance the value of our shareholders, which will ultimately increase the value of Korean Air,” Mr. Cho said. “We will leverage the values that we create with our partners to help the community achieve their dreams.”

Recently, Korean Air introduced its “Vision 2023” plan, which focuses on sustainable growth, improving its financial structure, transparency in corporate governance, and shareholder-friendly policies in all business areas to further enhance the corporate values for the next century.

■ 50 Years of Commitment to Economic Growth of Korea

Korean Air, founded in 1969 when Cho Jung Hun acquired the Korea Air Corporation, has played a key role in the economic development of Korea, flying over five oceans and six continents with the nation’s ‘Taeguek’ symbol on the tail fin of the plane.

In the 1970s, Korean Air continued to lead the way in the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, supporting the development of national industries. In the 1980s, it helped to raise the status of Korea as an official airline of the Seoul Olympic Games, promoting the country to the world.

From 1990 to 2000, Chairman of the Hanjin Group, which operates Korean Air, Cho Yang-ho made significant breakthroughs when he took on full leadership roles. Chairman Yang-ho became the President of Korean Air in 1992, Chairman of Korean Air in 1999, and Chairman of Hanjin Group in 2003.

In the 1990s, Korean Air opened the gate to China and Russia, launching its Beijing and Moscow routes. In the 2000s, under the guidance of Chairman Yang-ho, Korean Air was one of the founding members of the international airline alliance SkyTeam. Chairman Yang-ho also introduced Korean language services to three of the most famous museums in the world: Musée du Louvre in France, State Hermitage Museum in Russia, and the British Museum in the U.K.

In 2018, the airline played an important role in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, supporting the successful organization of the Games as an official partner. As chairman of both the bid committee and the organizing committee of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Mr. Cho played a key role in the success of the Games.

Also in 2018, Korean Air started another chapter in its history by exploring new markets through a joint venture agreement with Delta Air Lines.

Over the past 50 years, Korean Air has flown 10,187,193,280 km, which is the same as 254,679 laps of the globe or 13,400 round-trips from the Earth to the moon.

Since its establishment, Korean Air has carried 714.99 million people, which is equivalent to over 13 times the total Korean population. A total of 40.54 million tons of cargo have been delivered, which is about 50.775 million 8-ton trucks.

In March 1969, Korean Air ranked 11th among 11 airlines in Asia. The company only had eight aircraft: one jet and seven propeller planes. Today, it has grown into a global airline, operating 166 aircraft, including 42 B777s, 9 B787-9s, 10 B747-8is, and 10 A380s.

■ Preparing to Reach 100-year Milestone

Korean Air is taking steps to ensure the company reaches the 100-year milestone, and the airline aims to achieve growth, profitability, and stability under the “Vision 2023”.

Korean Air has tailored strategies for sustainable growth in each business area. In the passenger segment, the airline will continue to expand on its Americas-Asia network based on the joint venture with Delta Air Lines and explore new routes to Europe and Southeast Asia.

Cargo will improve profitability by expanding the sales of high-margin products, such as pharmaceuticals and fresh cargo, along with its new focus on emerging markets, namely Vietnam, India and Latin America. In the aerospace business, Korean Air will ensure the potential for growth by developing new technologies for civilian aircraft manufacturing and unmanned aerial vehicles. Profitability in in-flight meals and in-flight sales will also be improved with the department’s efforts to analyze and adapt passenger consumption patterns. Korean Air is expecting to achieve sales of KRW16 trillion in 2023 with annual growth of 5.1%, and plans to expand its number of aircraft to 190.

Corporate governance will also be enhanced with the effective operation of internal governing committees, including the Audit Committee, the Management Committee, the Non-Standing Director Nomination Committee, the Affiliate Transactions Committee, and the Safety Committee. In order to improve its financial structure, the company will lower debt to KRW 11 trillion and the debt ratio to 395% by 2023.

In order to maximize shareholder value, Korean Air will maintain its current dividend payout ratio and continue efforts to improve investor relations.

■ Uniting Employees With a Variety of Customer Appreciation Events

During the anniversary ceremony held in the airline’s Headquarters in Seoul on 4 March, Korean Air celebrated its 50th anniversary with over 1,500 of its executives and employees, along with employees from partner companies.

Guests at the celebration enjoyed various events, including best employee awards, cake cutting, and musical performances by the company’s choir.

The longest-serving employee award went to Mr. Kang Man-soo, 59, of Busan Kimhaejung maintenance factory and Ryu Dae-young, director of the quality management department, who both joined the company in 1977.

Captain Lee Deok-yeol, 63, was recognized for the longest flying time of 23,333 hours, and Ms. Oh Young-mi, 59, was recognized for her 8,159 hours of flight time as a flight attendant.

The best employees of each operational area, including flight attendants, check-in counter agents, reservation staff, aerospace staff with the most patent applications, and the most qualified cooks, received a special award for their efforts.

In the near future, Korean Air will host a variety of events to celebrate the anniversary with its customers.

Korean Air will operate an extraordinary flight from Incheon to Ho Chi Minh on KE 681 on 23 April to commemorate Korean Air’s first international route as a private airline. From 23 April to the end of May, a select group of flight attendants will wear a selection of 11 uniforms from 1969 to present day on the major routes to L.A., Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney and Jeju.

Korean Air has also announced that 10 airplanes will have the 50th anniversary emblem and slogan, “Beyond 50 Years of Excellence”, livery until the end of this year.