Lee suggests Muan International Airport as Asiana's hub
Asiana Airlines has been pulled into the election campaign, with Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung pledging to make Muan International Airport the carrier's hub.
Muan International Airport is in South Jeolla about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Gwangju.
Lee went to Facebook on Thursday, uploading a short post that read "Muan International Airport as Asiana Airline's hub."
The airline uses Incheon International Airport as its international hub and Gimpo International Airport as its hub for domestic flights, both shared with Korean Air Lines. Airline hubs are airports that are used as major transfer points, and they tend to be where passenger traffic is most focused.
Lee said the pledge was made to prevent layoffs and restructuring from the pending merger between Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines.
The Fair Trade Commission approved the merger on Tuesday, but only on the condition that the carriers give up traffic rights on routes that are dominated by the two companies. Approvals from six jurisdiction, including the United States and European Commission, are still needed for the merger to go ahead.
He pledged to add more international flights departing from Muan International Airport, extend the airport's runways and build more passenger terminals. Duty-free stores and foreigner-only casinos were also promised so the airport can attract more travelers and create more jobs in the area.
A spokesperson for Asiana Airlines said making Muan International Airport its hub is just a pledge made by a presidential candidate and that the company doesn't have anything to say at this point.
Lee Jun-seok, head of the People Power Party, fired back by posting a comment on Lee's post.
"Do you even know what an airline hub is?" read the comment. "How would Asiana plan its flight routes if Muan Airport became its focus city? Even low cost carriers are pulling out."
T'Way Air stopped offering Muan-Jeju flights in 2019. Jeju Air hasn't been operating flights between Muan International Airport and Japan's Narita and Kansai airport since 2019, citing a drop in passenger demand for those flights.
According to Incheon International Airport Corporation, 35 million passengers traveled through Incheon International Airport between Jan. 1 and June 30 in 2019, before the pandemic. Muan International Airport falls far behind, with only 358,937 international route travelers during the same period.
BY LEE TAE-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]