All South Korean airlines – both full-service and budget carriers – now have cut back their flights to Japan amid escalating trade tensions between the two neighboring countries after Air Seoul Inc., Korea’s fledgling low-cost carrier with hefty reliance on Japanese destinations, has decided to suspend and reduce its operations to Japan.
Air Seoul, a subsidiary of Asiana Airlines, said on Tuesday that it will suspend flights from Incheon to Toyama, Kumamoto, and Ube in Japan. The Incheon-Toyama flight will be halted from September 16 and Incheon-Kumamoto and Ube from October 27.
The budget carrier will also reduce the number of passenger flights to Osaka and Yonago in Japan from September 16. Air Seoul will fly to Osaka nine times a week, down from 14, and to Yonago three times a week, down from six. The carrier is also considering reducing or suspending flights to Sapporo, Okinawa, and Fukuoka.
Of 18 routes operated by Air Seoul, 12 are Japanese destinations. The carrier’s move comes after travel demand for Japan among Koreans has plunged in line with rising antagonism against Japanese goods and brands in the country in response to Tokyo’s abrupt export curbs on Seoul.
With Air Seoul joining its peers to roll back flight services to Japan, all Korean carriers – both budget and full-service carriers – now have suspended or reduced flights to Japan. The cutback is expected to dent the profitability of LLCs especially more than their bigger rivals because of their heavy reliance on Japanese destinations for business.
T’way Air has announced it will halt its Muan-Oita operation from August 24, as well as of Daegu-Kumamoto and Busan-Saga regular flights from September. Eastar Jet also announced to halt flights from Busan to Sapporo and Busan to Osaka from September. Full-service carriers Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines also joined the move to cut back flights.
Following Korean carriers’ decision to roll back flights to Japan, each company has cut more than 180,000 seats monthly heading to Japan so far, which totals to about 2 million seats a year. Carriers rolling back flights to Japan plan to instead expand services to China and Southeast Asia to make up for their losses from rolling back their flights to Japan.
By Noh Hyun and Lee Eun-joo
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