Budget airlines look for new routes, aircraft

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Budget airlines look for new routes, aircraft

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As the low-cost airline market grows and competition becomes fiercer, domestic budget airlines - Jeju Air, Jin Air and Air Busan - are expanding domestic, international and long-haul routes.

Last year, Eastar Jet and Air Busan saw 42 percent and 38 percent sales increases in international routes from a year ago, while Jeju Air saw a 60 percent sales boost from international routes compared to the previous year.

In addition, overseas low-cost carriers (LCCs) such as AirAsia X are also launching long-haul routes from Incheon to Kuala Lumpur targeting Korean travelers.

Not to be outdone, local LCCs are aggressively expanding. Jeju Air is introducing 10 new routes from the second half of this year.

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Jeju Air will be flying between Busan and Shijiazhuang, China, and between Daegu and Bangkok.

It will start a new route between Incheon and Saipan on Oct. 1 and will establish Incheon-Hanoi and Incheon-Okinawa routes in December.

In addition, the Daegu-Beijing route will be established next February, following the Busan-Guam route in January.

After that, Jeju Air will have a total of 21 international routes to 16 cities in seven countries and 25 domestic routes, including Gimpo, Busan, Daegu and Cheongju.

“Ahead of 2015, when the company will mark its 10th anniversary, we diversified our routes,” said a spokesman for Jeju Air in a press release.

“By expanding the routes, we will respond to the market conditions more flexibly and secure a stable profit base. Jeju Air will also position itself as a leading company as it continues to grow in size.”

Jin Air, a subsidiary of Korean Air, is also expanding long-haul routes to create new profit sources.

The company will acquire three B777-200ER twin-engine wide-body jets by the first half of next year, which can cover distances of 14,400 kilometers (8,947 miles).

Jin Air is planning on establishing an Incheon-Honolulu route next summer.

The Jin Air B777-200ER will have 393 seats with 30 to 40 seats allotted for economy plus, which provides wider spaces between seats than normal economy.

The B737 flight of Jin Air has a maximum distance of 5,765 kilometers, suited for Southeast Asian routes.

The long-range airliner B777-200ER can fly to Europe and the United States.

Jin Air, which is operating 11 aircraft, is planning to acquire nine new airplanes by the end of next year.

It will acquire a B737-800 in July, a B777-200ER in December, five B737-800s and two additional B777-200ERs next year.

Considering that the number of seats in the B777-200ER is double that of the B737, it is the equivalent of acquiring 12 new B737 aircraft.

By establishing new long-haul routes, Jin Air will likely create new profit sources, as large aircraft such as the B777-200ER generate more profit than smaller ones.

Air Busan has decided to establish long-haul routes by 2018, including the route to Singapore. It will acquire the large Airbus A330, which can fly for more than 12 hours from Busan to the Western United States.

Local LCCs are also expanding additional services to increase earnings.

Jeju Air has been providing its own catering service for international routes since May.

Some budget airlines have also started doing business in cooperation with hotels, rent-a-car companies and insurance companies.

BY KIM JUNG-YOON[kjy@joongang.co.kr]



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