Airlines expand fleet to keep up with demand

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Airlines expand fleet to keep up with demand

Korean airlines are scrambling to add more planes to their fleets after a record number of travelers, more than 100 million, flew the skies last year.

Six low-cost carriers will add 21 planes this year, and flagship carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines will add 21 planes to their fleet, the airlines said Wednesday.

Jeju Air, the nation’s top low-cost carrier, will secure six new planes this year after adding four last year. Its regular service will also be expanded from 41 to 50. The company has set a goal of carrying 10 million passengers this year.

Jin Air, a low-cost carrier under Korean Air, plans to add three more planes. Air Seoul and Air Busan, both low-cost affiliates of Asiana, will secure two and four planes each. Eastar Jet is expanding its fleet by two and T’way Air by four. They hope to strengthen service on routes to Japan and Southeast Asia.

The low-cost carriers are expanding aggressively thanks to their growing popularity. Last year, 21 percent of passengers traveled on low-cost airlines, compared to just 2.3 percent in 2010, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

On the upper end, the nation’s flagship carriers are bolstering service on long-distance flights in which they have a competitive edge.

Korean Air is adding 17 new planes, including five B787-9s, better known as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The airline is launching a new direct service to Barcelona, Spain, in April and adding more flights to popular U.S. destinations like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“To effectively respond to fiercer competition in the global air carrier market, we are attempting a launch in new flight routes while cutting down on less profitable ones,” a company spokesperson said.

Asiana Airlines is taking on four new A350 planes. The company plans to focus on its long-haul flights to the United States and Europe. It handed over short-distance routes, where it had been losing money, to Air Seoul, the low-cost affiliate it established last year.

Foreign airlines are also vying for Korean customers with new marketing tactics.

Germany’s Lufthansa launched a promotion where customers booking business-class tickets this month will receive a 100,000 won ($84) discount on Kakao Taxi Black, a Korean on-demand taxi service app.

“Lufthansa aims to provide Korean customers with a smart and premium travel experience in a fast-changing digital environment,” a company spokesperson said. “We hope customers can enjoy a comfortable flight service in the air and a premium ride service on land through the event.”

Hawaiian Airlines teamed up with celebrity chef Chung Chang-wook, most famous for his appearances on the Korean cooking program “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator,” for a special in-flight meal service to mark the airline’s sixth anniversary in Korea. During a flight on Monday, business-class passengers were personally served dinner by the chef.

Foreign airlines accounted for 35.5 percent of the Korean market as of November last year, according to the latest data from the Transport Ministry.

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