Air passenger traffic breaks recordKorea’s air passenger traffic reached a record high in the first quarter this year thanks to the rising number of Chinese tourists and growing operations from budget airlines, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Tuesday.
Between January and March this year, the number of air passengers totaled 30.57 million, which is up 6.4 percent from 28.73 million a year earlier, the ministry said.
International air passenger traffic passing through Korea increased 7 percent from a year earlier to 23 million in the first quarter and the number of domestic travelers rose 4.4 percent to 7.5 million.
Budget carriers accounted for 32.2 percent of the first quarter figure this year, a huge increase from the 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015.
Passenger traffic on Chinese routes was tallied at 4.14 million in the first quarter, up 14.4 percent from a year ago.
Although the number for China is still lower than the 4.4 million recorded in the first quarter of 2016, before the number of Chinese tourists visiting Korea plummeted due to heated diplomatic tensions between Korea and China, the figure has steadily increased after reaching 3.62 million in the first quarter last year.
Passenger traffic for routes to Southeast Asia saw a 7.9 percent increase to 9.42 million in the first quarter from a year earlier, followed by Japanese routes with a 4.1 percent gain to 5.85 million.
However, the number of air passengers traveling to North America decreased by 1 percent and the number flying to Oceania fell by 4.5 percent.
The number of domestic passengers also increased due to increasing demand for routes to Jeju Island from foreign travelers, the ministry added.
Meanwhile, air cargo traffic decreased 3.4 percent to 1.04 million tons during the same period due to sluggish shipments to China, Japan and Europe as the global economy slowed, the ministry said.
BY KO JUN-TAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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