Asiana boosts flights, adds Vladivostok route

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Asiana boosts flights, adds Vladivostok route

Asiana Airlines will add a flight to Vladivostok and increase service to Paris and Osaka starting the middle of next month.

The seven weekly flights to Vladivostok, Russia, from Incheon International Airport will use the 171-seat Airbus A321 and begin Nov. 16. Asiana currently flies to Sakhalin and Khabarovsk in Russian Far East.

Korea’s No. 2 airline also announced that it will add a Sunday flight to the existing Monday, Wednesday and Friday Incheon-Paris schedule starting Nov. 16. Asiana also will double from seven to 14 the number of weekly flights from Busan to Osaka.

In May, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and city of Vladivostok reached an open-skies agreement to meet growing passenger and cargo demand. Currently, only Korean Air and Vladivostok Air offer regular flights between Seoul and the Russian city.

“Vladivostok is known to be at the core of Korea-Russia economic activity, and tourism is growing,” Asiana said in a statement yesterday. “Asiana will carry on various marketing activities to attract customers.”

To celebrate the opening of the route, Asiana said it will offer double miles for travel to Vladivostok through Dec. 20 booked using the airline’s Web site.

Korean Air, part of the Hanjin Group, began using the larger Boeing B777-200ER, which seats 248, on Incheon-Vladivostok flights starting Sept. 1. From January through July, the airline carried 51,164 passengers to the Russian city, a 26 percent increase from the same period last year.

Asiana hopes the route expansion will boost business. For the third quarter, the carrier’s revenue is expected to fall short of expectations, according to industry analysts.

“Asiana bought seven planes [five passenger, two cargo] in the third quarter and that increased the cost of fuel by 8 percent compared to last year,” said Yoon Hee-do at Korea Investment & Securities. Yoon estimated that Asiana’s third quarter operating profit will be 118.4 billion won ($106.2 million), which is less than his firm’s previous prediction of 146.9 billion won. “The currency exchange rate also burdened airline’s performance in the third quarter,” he added.

However, analysts see a brighter future for Asiana because of the carrier’s expansion and an increasing demand for international flights.

“The additional planes temporarily increase the cost of fuel, but the move makes sense for the long term,” said Cho Byung-hee at Kiwoom Securities last week. “It’s positive that the company keeps investing to maintain its competitiveness.”

By Joo Kyung-don []

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