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Korean Air chief to accompany chartered flight to Wuhan

Cho Won-tae (Korean Air)
Cho Won-tae (Korean Air)

Hanjin Group Chairman and Korean Air CEO Cho Won-tae will be onboard the chartered flight that the government has arranged to bring back South Korean citizens from Wuhan, China, industry sources said Thursday.

The government plans to send chartered flights of Korean Air’s A330 and B747 which can seat around 300 and 400 people, respectively, on Thursday and Friday, to bring back some 700 Koreans from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The first of the four flights was set to take off at 10 a.m. Thursday. But the Foreign Ministry said the planned flights will take off in the evening, citing scheduling problems at the airport in Beijing. 

Korean Air, the only flagship full-service carrier that operates the Incheon-Wuhan route, had previously sent a chartered flight to transport 101 Korean citizens from Nepal, where a devastating earthquake hit Kathmandu.

The Korean Air flights departing Seoul to Wuhan will carry a government response team comprised of 42 personnel including Second Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Lee Tae-ho, medical staff from the National Medical Center, quarantine officials from the Incheon International Airport and Korean Air flight attendants.

Industry insiders said Cho’s decision to accompany the Korean Air employees who reportedly volunteered to service Koreans leaving Wuhan, was to show his support for the workers. News reports have said tens of flight attendants, many of whom hold executive positions in the company’s labor union, volunteered to work on the flight to lend help in the emergency situation. About 30 crew members will take the flight. 

Meanwhile, the air carrier said Cho’s decision to board the flight will be confirmed before the departure.

By Kim Da-sol (