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Air carriers face double whammy on stormy coronavirus turbulence

Most planes grounded at airports due to flight cancellations

A line of airplanes are parked at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)
A line of airplanes are parked at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)

South Korean air carriers that have been hit hard by many flight cancellations over coronavirus face a double whammy with rising parking airport fees, according to industry sources Saturday.

Airports charge companies for using their facilities as parking spaces. At Incheon International Airport, the parking fee is free for three hours upon arrival, with different amounts depending on the aircraft size, for every 30 minutes.

According to flagship carrier Korean Air, it has been charged almost 29 million won ($23,800) for parking of one A380, one of its biggest aircrafts at the Incheon airport from March 2 to Friday -- about 70,000 won per 30 minutes.

The company said almost over 100 of passenger aircrafts among its 140 have remained idle this month. It operates only around 18 flights per day now, compared to 131 daily flights on average before the virus outbreak.

As of Saturday, the number of countries that have enforced entry restrictions on Korean nationals and those who visited here is 61, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The number of countries that have imposed some kind of monitoring measures on visitors who have departed from Korea came to 131 on Saturday.

As for Asiana Airlines, the second-largest airline operator here, it is burdened with the increased amount of parking fees -- 70 percent in March compared to a month before.

The situation appears to be more painful for low-cost carriers that see almost all of their flights canceled, as they mainly operate lines to neighboring countries of China and Japan and Southeast Asia. 

A signboard at Gimpo International Airport on Thursday. (Yonhap)
A signboard at Gimpo International Airport on Thursday. (Yonhap)

On Thursday, a total of 12 passenger flights and 14 air cargo took off from Incheon International Airport.

Gimpo International Airport, which saw an average of 24 international flights per day, also recorded zero flights on Thursday, the first time since it opened its international services in 2003. Jeju International Airport is facing a similar situation.

The lack of space is also a troubling factor for the aviation industry.

According to Incheon International Airport Corp, its two passenger terminals, which can accommodate 163 aircrafts each, and a terminal for 47 air cargo planes, have already been filled up. Gimpo International Airport, which has space for 89 aircrafts is also filled up

There are 414 aircrafts registered by nine Korean airlines as of December, according to data from Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the operation rate of aircrafts has plummeted to around 20 percent.

IIAC said it will cooperate with the Transport Ministry on measures to support the airline operators.

By Jo He-rim (