Fourty-four million Samsung phones are helping keep Korean Air aloft

Mobile phones rule Korean Air’s world.
Mobile phones rule Korean Air’s world.
Image: AP Photo / Lee Jin-man
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South Korea’s largest airline carrier, Korean Air, announced today that it would be adding more flights to North America this year. Where is it getting the money to do that when profits for global airlines have shrunk since 2010? Samsung Electronics, or more specifically, Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 phones.

Earlier this month, an analyst estimated that Samsung could ship 44 million units of the smartphone this year. (A Boeing 747-8 freighter plane can hold 1 million mobile phones, Bloomberg points out). That should help Korean Air, which counts Samsung as its biggest source of revenue, and is one of many global airlines suffering a broader downsizing of the global air freight market that contracted in 2011 and 2012.

However, Korean Air’s expansion and Samsung’s shipping forecast are also evidence that the global industry in both passenger and cargo activity should pick up this year, as the International Air Transport Association predicts. Korean Air expects passenger demand to rise 3.9% this year thanks to growth in North America and Asia. The carrier said it would be adding planes to its fleet and running more flights to North America, Southeast Asia, China and Japan—but not, unsurprisingly, Europe.