The Korea Herald


France rejects opening Paris flight routes to T'way Air, deals blow to Korean Air merger

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : April 19, 2024 - 17:56

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Asiana Airlines, Korean Air and T'way Air passenger carriers are parked at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap) Asiana Airlines, Korean Air and T'way Air passenger carriers are parked at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)

French aviation authorities have rejected opening flight routes to Paris to T'way Air, the South Korean budget carrier, dealing a blow Korean Air's efforts to acquire Asiana Airlines, according to industry sources on Friday.

The industry sources said the French aviation authorities delivered their opposition to T’way Air’s operations in Paris to both the South Korean government and Korean Air, citing "a violation of a mutual agreement between the two countries," made in 1974.

In that year, South Korea and France signed an aviation agreement to allow only one South Korean airline to operate in France. In 2008, the agreement was revised to include one additional airline, Asiana Airlines, to operate in the European country.

While South Korean flag carrier Korean Air has sought to acquire its smaller rival, Asiana Airlines, the European Union competition authorities ordered the biggest carrier to surrender its routes to four European cities to T'way in order to receive approval of the merger. The other cities are Frankfurt, Barcelona and Rome.

Under this backdrop, T'way Air had been expected to assume flight operations to Paris from Korean Air.

South Korean government and Korean Air said they are in discussions with the French authorities to address the issue.

“South Korean airlines’ operations in Paris should be measured by the number of flight operations (not by the number of airlines) as agreed between the two countries,” an official from Korean Air said.

“As for operations in Frankfurt, Barcelona and Rome, which are the other three cities, each other European country showed no opposition, acknowledging that the transfer abides by the previous operational rights, as well as the European Commission’s approval conditions.”

Korean Air is ramping up its efforts to finalize the acquisition and anticipates a surge in passengers, particularly ahead of the Paris Olympic Games in July.

As part of the acquisition process, Korean Air has been in the process of transferring five carriers and some 100 flight attendants to T’way Air.