The Korea Herald

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Korean Air, Asiana outpaced by foreign rivals in April passenger numbers

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : May 29, 2024 - 16:27

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Passengers at the Incheon International Airport (Yonhap) Passengers at the Incheon International Airport (Yonhap)

The number of international flight passengers using foreign airlines exceeded that of those using Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, the nation’s top two air carriers, in April – the first time they have done so without pandemic restrictions in place.

According to data released by the Land and Transport Ministry on Wednesday, the number of outbound and inbound travelers using foreign airlines was 2.25 million last month, while there were 1.36 million passengers for Korean Air and 877,470 passengers for Asiana Airlines.

Foreign airlines saw a 50.4 percent jump in passenger numbers from a year ago, which compared to a 32 percent jump in the combined numbers of the two Korean rivals.

In 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic was still rampant, the number of international flight passengers using foreign airlines was about 175,000, slightly higher than they combined number for Korean Air and Asiana of 174,000.

At the time, foreign airlines were starting to add flights after years of pandemic disruptions, while Korean airlines were still gauging the timing due to the strict quarantine rules in place in the country.

“Korean Air and Asiana Airlines reduce the number of temporary flights during a low season due to operating costs,” an industry official said on condition of anonymity.

“But they tend to maintain ticket prices. Their foreign rivals are attracting more passengers by cutting airfares.”

Another industry official said that the top two Korean airlines are still struggling to elevate the operational rate of their China routes.

“Asiana Airlines, in particular, has not yet recovered the flight volume on the China routes,” he said.

Over the past two years, the number of foreign airlines operating at Incheon International Airport jumped 60 percent to 64 as of April.

Industry people predicted that Korean Air and Asiana Airlines could outpace their foreign rivals in the coming months leading to the summer holiday seasons.

“The flight volume has not yet fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Given the growing popularity of Korea as a tourist destination, Korean air carriers will continue to increase flights,” an official from the tourism industry said.