Korean airlines cut down services to China

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Korean airlines cut down services to China

Korea’s major airlines are planning on cutting down services to China as geopolitical tension with the country continues to sour following the full deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.

According to sources from Asiana Airlines on Monday, it is reducing the size of the planes used on major services to China while reducing the frequency of flights to Guilin, a city in Guangxi renowned for its scenery.

The change is to be made when the airline sets flight schedules for the winter season - from Oct. 29 through Mar. 2.

While Asiana used to fly Airbus 330 planes for services from Gimpo to Beijing and Incheon to Pudong, it is replacing the jet with smaller Airbus 321 planes, a narrow-bodied jet fit for short-to-medium range flights.

Also for services that connect Incheon with Nanjing and Tianjin, the airline will use Airbus 321 planes instead of larger Boeing 767 jets.

As for services connecting Incheon and Guilin, the service will be reduced from seven flights a week to four from Oct. 29 through Dec. 31.

“It is natural for airlines to cut overall seat supplies in the winter season,” a spokesperson from Asiana Airlines said. “But travel demand did fall significantly for Guilin and that’s why we are cutting back on that service.”

While rival Korean Air did not disclose concrete plans to further reduce services to China, it is considering measures to reflect changing demand in its winter season schedule, which will be crafted in October as well, according to an inside source.

“We will reflect demand changes in our seasonal schedule adjustment,” the source said.

According to data accumulated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, passengers on routes connecting Seoul and China, which account for roughly 27 percent of international passengers, dropped by 44.8 percent from Mar. 15 through the end of July. China has banned group tours to Korea since Mar. 15 following the first stage of Thaad deployment.

“Asiana Airlines is expected to see a roughly 30.8 percent year on year drop in operating profits in the third quarter this year to 105 billion won ($132.6 million),” said Bang min-jin, an analyst from Eugene Investment & Securities. “Retaliation from China powered by the deployment of Thaad has cut passengers on major Chinese service routes by more than 20 percent.” In March both airlines either cut or reduced their services to China.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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