중앙데일리

Bullet trains steal planes’ thunder

Apr 02,2009
Bullet trains are snatching passengers away from domestic airline routes here, as more than 170 million passengers traveled by KTX from its launch in 2004. A growing number of domestic passengers are traveling by KTX to benefit from its faster traveling time, less delays and low ticket cost.

“I used to fly when I went on business trips to Busan or Daegu, primarily because the journey by the Mugunghwa and Saemaeul trains took more than four hours,” said Kim Kyung-min, 33, a domestic trader. But that’s not the case anymore. Kim now considers the KTX his preferred option. Running at 300 kilometers per hour, the KTX is the fastest train in Korea. The 408.5-kilometer (253.8-mile) trip from Seoul to Busan takes an hour and a half.

“It’s more convenient for businessmen like me,” Kim said.

He’s not alone. The number of passengers taking domestic airline routes has been decreasing since 2004, and the airline industry expects the number to decline even more.

A total of 5.3 million passengers on average took the Seoul-Busan flights each year as of 2003, but the number decreased to 2.4 million last year.

“KTX is one of our prime competitors [for domestic routes],” said Kim Soo-cheon, CEO and president of Air Busan, a unit carrier of Asiana Airlines, last week.

The low-cost airline recently began a promotion to increase the number of round-trip Seoul-Busan flights to 28 a day, or at least one per hour.

To retain passengers, many domestic and budget airlines are coming up with other promotions to attract more business passengers, such as a membership program to create more loyal corporate and individual fliers. Airlines are also planning to offer more discounts, which will allow them to compete with KTX in price as well.

Considering current discounts, an average one-way budget airline flight from Seoul to Busan costs 50,000 won, including the air tax fee.

A one-way Seoul-Busan KTX seat costs 48,000 won.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]


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