Korean Air set to be the first operator of Boeing 747-8I to Australia

(Photo: Korean Air Boeing 747-8I HL7642 at Sydney Airport on Saturday September 2 2017. (Seth Jaworski))

Korean Air has become the first airline to operate the latest passenger variant of Boeing’s evergreen 747 to Australia.

The Skyteam alliance member’s Boeing 747-8I HL7642 touched down at Sydney Airport in the early hours of Saturday morning as KE121 from Seoul Incheon.

The aircraft was on the ground for about one hour and 40 minutes before taking off as the reciprocal KE122.

While Cathay Pacific has used the 747-8F freighter to Australia for a number of years, including to Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, Korean Air is the first airline to operate the 747-8I to Australia.

The only other 747-8I flights to Oceania have been occasional Korean Air flights between Seoul Incheon and Auckland and Air China services between Beijing and Auckland.

In addition to the 747-8I now on the route, Korean Air has also previously used Airbus A330s and A380s for its Sydney service, depending on the time of year.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8I HL7642 at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Korean Air’s Sydney services are an overnight flight from Seoul Incheon and a morning departure from Mascot. (Seth Jaworski)

Korean Air is one of just three airlines flying the 747-8I passenger variant alongside Air China and Lufthansa, while there are 10 operators of the 747-8F freighter.

The Boeing website shows the 747-8 program has garnered 133 orders, comprising 88 -8F freighters and 45 -8I passenger aircraft. Of those 115 aircraft have been delivered, with 18 orders (17 freighters and one passenger variant) outstanding.

In July, Boeing said it was “reasonably possible” the company could end production of the 747 should new orders not materialise.

Further, the production rate of the iconic aircraft was being cut to six frames a year beginning in September.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8I HL7642 at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Korean Air Boeing 747-8I HL7642 takes off from Sydney bound for Seoul Incheon. (Seth Jaworski)