Domestic flights get a boost from warm weather

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Domestic flights get a boost from warm weather

Despite a grim outlook for airlines as the coronavirus pummels demand for international flights, several budget airlines in Korea have recently announced plans to expand local routes.

With warmer weather and a sharp decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases in Korea, air carriers say domestic demand has gradually risen.

Jeju Air announced Thursday that it will operate a new Gimpo-Yeosu and Yeosu-Jeju route once each day, starting on April 29. The budget carrier operated six domestic flights before the coronavirus outbreak but had cut those down to just two before the recent additions.

T’way Air has also announced it will begin operating a new, unscheduled Gimpo-Busan route starting May 1. The flights will run four times a day, with varying departure and arrival times.

T’way Air said it plans to expand other transportation options that were cut following the virus outbreak.

Similarly, Air Busan is resuming routes that were suspended in February, from Ulsan to Gimpo and Jeju. It partially expanded routes to Jeju a month ago.

And its affiliate Air Seoul on April 6 increased the number of Gimpo-Jeju flights from 25 each week to 32.

“At this point, travel demand hasn’t yet recovered to what it was last year,” said Park Bo-kyung from Air Seoul’s communications department. “But demand for flights to Jeju is gradually recovering, particularly on the weekends. Since we aren’t able to resume international flights at this point, we decided to expand flights starting on Jeju routes.”

As of Thursday, Korean Air Lines flew 17 flights to Jeju from Gimpo, compared to nine flights a month ago.

Travel within Korea started to recover in the second week of March, after falling to a one-month low during the first week of March, according to a report from research firm ConsumerInsight.

In a survey that involved 500 participants, only 54.1 percent of respondents said they had plans to travel within the country during the first week of March, a 6.5 percentage point drop from the previous week. In the second week, demand inched up to 57 percent and hit 59.1 percent the following week.

Gangwon, Jeju and Busan were the most popular travel destinations among the survey respondents.

Warmer weather and the gradual slowdown of coronavirus patients could further raise travel demand, but the survey indicated a rebound in demand for international flights will likely take more time to recover.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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