Asiana Launches Flights to Paris

    April 01, 2008 07:28

    Suffering from high oil prices, the weakening won against the greenback, and an economic slowdown, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are hoping to overcome the crisis by launching or increasing flights to Europe. Asiana threw down the gauntlet to Korean Air by launching a new service between Seoul and Paris on Monday.

    The direct Seoul-Paris route first opened in 1973 and has since been flown exclusively by Korean Air and Air France. Asiana will now operate three flights per week on the route, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. With Asiana's flights, the combined seating capacity on the route will increase by about 20 percent. It will now be easier for passengers to book flights to Paris, but it almost certainly means heightened competition between the airlines.

    Asiana has so far focused on short-haul international routes to Japan, China and Southeast Asia. But with its profitability aggravated as low-cost carriers joined the short-haul market, Asiana had sought to launch long-distance flights to Europe.

    Asiana still lags Korean Air in both destinations in Europe and flight services to the Continent. Asiana flies to only three European cities -- London, Frankfurt and now Paris -- on just 14 flights per week. Korean Air boasts 50 weekly nonstop flights to 12 European cities. Asiana also has fewer aircraft on long-distance flights than Korean Air.

    Korean Air flies the Paris route twice daily. It has no reason to welcome its rival to the route it has monopolized for more than 30 years. Korean Air has recently intensified its cultural marketing, including providing passengers with Paris guidebooks and sponsoring the Louvre Museum's Korean-language guide service.

    Meanwhile, Korean Air is planning to launch service to Munich from June 1. It will also increase flights to other European cities, including adding one more weekly flight each to Rome and Moscow, thereby strengthening its comprehensive network of flights crisscrossing the Continent, including Prague in Eastern Europe, Moscow in Russia and Madrid in Southern Europe.

    Air France, the other carrier with nonstop service between Seoul and Paris, is busy working out measures to compete with Korean Air and Asiana. An Air France executive said the fate of the airlines' services on the route will be determined by how many passengers they can attract during the summer peak season.

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