There are very few passengers at the check-in counter for Japan-bound flights at Terminal 1 in Incheon International Airport. [Photo by Han Joo-hyung]
Flights to Japan have become nearly 30 percent empty this month as Koreans voluntarily keep away from their closet neighbor due to simmering tensions over past and diplomatic issues between the two nations that have built up to tit-for-tat export sanctions.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Wednesday, the seat occupancy rate of on flights between South Korea and Japan fell 13 percentage points to 71.5 percent from August 4 to 10, compared to 84.5 percent a year ago. The rate for the previous week, from July 28 to August 3, dropped 12 percentage points to 75.7 percent from 87.7 percent in the previous year.
The increased vacancy ratio came even as Korean air carriers- both full-service and budget names – cut back or suspended flights to Japanese locations due to plunge in demand. Few are going to Japan for pleasure. Demand is restricted to businessmen, students, Japanese visitors and those who failed to cancel their reservations, according to the industry.
Consumers joined voluntary travel ban and boycott of Japanese brands after Tokyo last month singled out Korea-bound chemicals key to components industry for export control and expanded the embargo by removing Korea from white country list of trusted trade partners in early August. The move came as Tokyo cited loss of trust after Korean courts since October last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate forced laborers during colonial period irrelevant to the 1965 basic treaty that claimed to have completed settlements to wartime claims. The Korean government last year also disbanded a fund compensating for wartime sexual slavery despite inter-government agreement in 2015 to close the affair.
Korean airlines have bumped up flights to other neighboring countries including China and Southeast Asian nations to make up for the losses on Japanese routes. Air Busan, a fledging budget carrier owned by the nation’s second largest full-service carrier Asiana Airlines, announced Wednesday that it will increase its flights from Busan to Taipei from seven times a week to 10 times starting August 20. The low-cost carrier (LCC) said the decision was made to offset the recent cuts in services on routes between Daegu and Narita, Osaka and Kitakyushu.
By Chun Gyung-woon and Choi Mira
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]