Execs from Korean and GS Caltex hold up their signed agreement.

Press Release: Korean Air partners with GS Caltex to test SAF

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Press Release hub banner blue with title in red white and blueKorean Air has partnered with GS Caltex, a globally-recognized Korean energy and chemical company, to conduct test flights using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The test flights using SAF will be analyzed and the results will be used by the Korean government to establish SAF quality standards and accelerate commercialization.

The two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 29 to cooperate on a series of test flights using SAF. This agreement is aligned with the Korean government’s initiative to boost the supply of eco-friendly biofuels. Both Korean Air and GS Caltex will proactively participate in the government project hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT). The Korea Petroleum Quality & Distribution Authority and the Incheon International Airport Corporation will also participate in this project.

Korean Air will use SAF supplied by GS Caltex on select international flights departing from Seoul Incheon. The airline will use SAF that satisfies international standards on quality, including American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. The test flights will take place for six months starting in the second half of 2023, and the government plans to establish SAF implementation guidelines for domestic use based on the results of the flights. The research will assist in setting SAF quality standards prior to full-scale domestic production.

SAF is expected to play a key role in substantially reducing carbon emissions from aircraft operations. Unlike nonrenewable fossil fuels, SAF is manufactured from eco-friendly and/or recycled materials such as animal and vegetable oils, algae and solid waste, and may reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional fossil jet fuel.

SAF usage is on the rise, and the EU is mandating airlines refueling in its territory to use a minimum 2% SAF blend from 2025. Many countries including the United States are introducing a variety of policies to expand SAF production through incentives such as tax deduction. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also led states to adopt and commit to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 for international flight operations.

Korean Air tested SAF for the first time in November 2017 between Seoul Incheon and Chicago O’Hare, and has been using SAF on its Paris-Seoul Incheon route since last year. Korean Air has also signed an agreement with global energy company Shell to purchase SAF from Shell at major airports in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East for five years starting in 2026.


The airline’s increase in SAF usage is part of its proactive efforts to reduce carbon emissions to help tackle climate change, and further strengthen its environmental, social and governance (ESG) management for governance transparency.

“SAF is crucial in reducing carbon emissions in the aviation sector, but is easily influenced by various factors such as domestic and international policies, regulations, and demand and supply,” said Seong Bae Cho, Senior Vice President of Procurement at Korean Air. “The cooperative effort with GS Caltex will vitalize the Korean domestic SAF market, and will serve as stepstones for the Korean government’s decarbonization policies.”

About Korean Air

Serving the world for more than 50 years, Korean Air is one of the world’s top 20 airlines, carrying more than 27 million passengers in 2019, pre-COVID. With its global hub at Incheon International Airport (ICN), the airline serves 120 cities in 43 countries on five continents with a modern fleet of 156 aircraft and over 20,000 professional employees.

Korean Air’s outstanding performance and commitment to the highest level of safety and customer service was further highlighted during the pandemic; the airline was granted numerous awards including 2021 Airline of the Year and 2022 Cargo Operator of the Year by Air Transport World, and a 5-star COVID safety rating from Skytrax.

Korean Air is a founding member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, and has grown into one of the largest transpacific airlines through its joint venture with Delta Air Lines.

Dedicated to providing Excellence in Flight, Korean Air’s vision is to be a respected leader in the world airline community.

Featured image credited to Korean Air