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Korean Air braces for turbulence as cargo rates sink

End of capacity squeeze set to weigh on profits in 2023

A focus on cargo allowed Korean Air Lines to reap record profits amid the pandemic. (Photo by Ahn Seong-bok)

SEOUL -- While other carriers enjoy a long-awaited rebound, Korean Air Lines is expected to see profits descend from their pandemic-era highs as the industry's recent expansion of passenger flights works against the company's cargo-focused strategy.

The South Korean flag carrier had enjoyed two straight years of record profits in 2021 and 2022 even as peers like Thai Airways International and Virgin Australia went through bankruptcy. Its operating profit nearly doubled to 2.88 trillion won ($2.22 billion) last year, while sales jumped by 53% to 13.41 trillion won.

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