South Korea’s second-largest airline, Asiana is suffering a major catering failure with reports that many flights, including long-haul intercontinental services, are departing the airline’s hub at Incheon without any food loaded. The failure has been linked to Asiana’s disastrous catering supplier switchover from LSG Skychefs to Gate Gourmet, with allegations of corruption now emerging.
According to some reports, around 38 flights departed without any meals on Sunday, while a further 51 flights were heavily delayed because of the continuing problems. By Monday, 18 out of 75 long-haul services were delayed by more than an hour while they waited for catering to be loaded. A number of short-haul services to Japan and China had to takeoff without any food.
As the problems continue, Asiana has taken to Twitter to apologise to customers and encourage anyone due to fly with the airline in the coming days to bring their own food to the airport with them. Asiana is issuing food vouchers valued at between $30 to $50 USD so that passengers can purchase food and drink at the airport before departure.
The problems started after Asiana decided to enter into a 30-year joint venture with the Swiss-based airline catering company, Gate Group. The deal will see Gate Group become the sole in-flight catering supplier to Asiana from its hub in Seoul for the next three decades – but the switchover from the old supplier, LSG Skychefs has been anything but smooth.
The brand new Gate Group facility suffered a major fire shortly before the company was set to start supplying Asiana so airline executives urgently reached out to boutique airline caterers Sharp Do & Co. But with only 100 employees, Sharp Do & Co simply wasn’t able to handle a near 10x increase in daily production.
Apparently, Sharp Do & Co hired 40 workers from LSG Skychefs and Gate Group sent over an additional 60 caterers but this still hasn’t been enough to keep up with the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 meals per day that Asiana requires.
The situation became so bad for the president of a subcontractor to Sharp Do & Co that he committed suicide after working 28-hours straight in a desperate bid to sort out the mess. Named only as Hwain CS, the executive’s son told local media that his father took his own life after being blamed for the debacle.
There are now suggestions that Asiana only switched catering suppliers when LSG Skychefs refused to invest $142million USD in a private company owned by Park Sam-Koo, the chairman of Kumho Asiana group.
It now seems like the two major airline groups in South Korea are both embroiled in scandal at the hands of their Chaebol owners – a South Korean term which refers to large conglomerates that are owned by powerful families.
The head of Korean Air, Cho Yang-ho was recently questioned by prosecutors over allegations of tax evasion and other charges, while his two daughters have been heavily criticised over their physical abuse of airline workers.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has said he wants to curb what he see’s as the excessive power that Chaebol families in the country currently wield.