By Will Lee
Asiana Airlines Resumes Flights to Hawaii
South Korea’s aviation industry has gradually started recovering from the pandemic. Asiana Airlines — the second-largest carrier in the nation— has resumed its services to Hawaii on Sunday. The resumption comes after the easing of the travel restrictions in South Korea. The airline will operate three times a week services to the tourist hotspot. The flight services between South Korea and Hawaii were suspended for 25 months.
Earlier, the South Korean government has announced that fully vaccinated travelers can avoid quarantining after arriving in South Korea from most countries. The travelers who have not been vaccinated still need to quarantine for seven days. The new policy has resulted in surging international travel demand in the country. According to an online travel agency, they sold 5,200 Hawaii tour packages within 70 minutes.
The aviation sector in South Korea has seen an increase in demand for Europe, Southeast Asia and islands across the Pacific Ocean. In response to quarantine rules being lifted, Korean Air — the flag carrier of the nation — has added its frequencies to Japan and Singapore this week.
In the meantime, Asiana Airlines expanded its operations to Japan and resumed its flight operations between Seoul, South Korea to Nagoya, Japan. The airline operates one weekly flight between the two cities at the moment. Recently, Japan has relaxed its travel restrictions, and Korean travelers who have taken a booster shot need to quarantine for three days, instead of seven days
International Travel Demand Surge
Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport expected the daily traffic figure would exceed 20,000 after the border reopened. Before the pandemic, the airport handled 200,000 passengers a day, but the passenger capacity has plummeted to 3,000 daily due to the pandemic.
Ironically, Asiana Airlines recorded a profit of 456.5 billion Won ($374 million) in 2021 due to the high demand for cargo business — the first profit in four years.
Asiana Airlines has experienced severe turbulence during the pandemic. The government has allowed Korean Air to acquire Asiana Airlines, but the acquisition needed approval from six other countries and parties, which were the U.S, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and China. If the acquisition is confirmed, Korean Air will become the tenth biggest airline.
The aviation sector is recovering as the Transport Ministry of South Korea anticipates that international flights could reach 50% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. The government has recorded 406 international flights in March — around 8.8% of 2019.
The Korean carriers have been urging the government to speed up the resumption of international travel and guarantee that the carriers’ slots at overseas airports are kept — especially in the U.S and Europe.