Ensure safety for passengers
Korea’s budget airlines have been reporting a chain of accidents, raising serious safety concerns. One Boeing 737-800 operated by Jin Air, a low-cost subsidiary of Korea’s flag-carrier Korean Air, bound for Busan had to return back to the airport in Cebu, a resort island of the Philippines, 40 minutes after a take-off after a door was found to be leaking air. Another jet run by Jeju Air with 152 passengers onboard arrived at Jeju Island after a tumultuous plunge from 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in mid-air due to problems in its air compression system last month. On Dec. 13, an Easter Jet flight bound for Hong Kong with 186 passengers had to make an emergency return back to Incheon 50 minutes after take-off due to unspecified problems.
Three accidents in just a month raises serious questions about the standards of low-cost airlines. The Transport Ministry embarked on a safety review of the country’s six licensed budget airlines and said it would announce a new set of stricter safety control measures. But promised measures alone cannot ease the jitters of passengers who have experienced dreadful flights.
Budget carriers have been entirely engrossed in price competition to survive in the saturated market. Airline experts warn that excessive cost-cutting could push low-cost carriers to fly without thorough safety checkups and sufficient rest between flights. Budget carriers have flourished in a short period of time since they were first introduced in 2005. Low-cost carriers took up 51.2 percent of passengers on local routes, exceeding full-service airlines last year. They also took up 16.2 percent of passengers on international flights. Jeju Air which was first to go public on the main Seoul bourse in November last year outpaced full-service rival Asiana Airlines in market capitalization as soon as its shares were listed. Jin Air also has been posting surpluses for five consecutive years.
Budget airliners must ensure the safety for passengers, whom they must thank for their lucrative business. Investments in safety are a must for any airline regardless of their fares. Authorities must also be as strict and systematic in safety regulations and supervision with budget airlines as their bigger full-service counterparts are. There should be no difference when in comes to levels of safety measures.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 5, Page 30