Budget carriers are seeing an explosive growth in passengers as they expand flights to Japan and Southeast Asia.
There are six budget airlines in Korea — Air Busan, Air Seoul, Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, Jin Air and T’way Airlines — and according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, 9.31 million out of 25.1 million passengers who flew on Korean carriers in the first half of this year used them. That boils down to one in three.
Budget carriers already surpassed the international flight passenger load of flagship carrier Korean Air (9.25 million). In the first half, Korean Air’s and Asiana Airlines’ international flight passengers dwindled 3.2 percent, while low-cost airlines’ surged 49.1 percent.
Over the last decade, budget carriers have expanded international flights from Japan and China to Southeast Asia and Oceania. In 2015 they started flights to Hawaii and last year to Australia.
They also fly to regional airports that flag carriers have traditionally shunned due to the costs. Back in 2008, budget airlines accounted for only 0.05 percent of international flights offered by Korea carriers, and now that has risen to 27.5 percent.
Jeju Air said lower prices encourage a growing number of Koreans to travel overseas frequently for short vacations.
Provincial governments are trying to join the bandwagon by creating their own carriers. Yangyang in Gangwon Province, Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province and Gimhae in South Gyeongsang Province, Daegu, Cheongju in North Chuncheong Province are seeking licenses to launch their own budget airlines.