July 25, 2008 10:49
Four new European destinations have been added to the flight schedule from Seoul between January 2006 and this year's first half -- Madrid, Munich, Vienna, and Helsinki. That means 18 percent of the 22 new direct-flight destinations of the period are in Europe. Six Chinese cities were also added. Previously, there were direct flights to only seven European cities -- London, Rome, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, Prague and Frankfurt.
German airline Lufthansa flies Busan-Incheon-Munich since April last year, and Korean Air linked Incheon and Munich in June. Asiana Airlines began flying to Paris in late March on top of previous direct flights by Korean Air and Air France.
Korean Air is the most active in expanding direct airways to Europe. Servicing Munich from June, it now has direct flights to 13 European cities including Turkey and Russia, offering more direct flights to Europe than any other Asian flyer. Its first advance to Europe was a freighter servicing Paris in 1973. Now Europe is its second biggest market after North America. A company official says long-distance routes may struggle to make profits due to high oil prices, but demand for business and pleasure trips is growing.
Korean Air's extensive European network also serves as a conduit for Korean firms' advance to Europe. Munich, the capital of the south German economic powerhouse state of Bavaria, is the third largest city in Germany.
Vienna, a direct destination since March last year, is a strategic hub not only in Austria but also for Eastern Europe including Slovakia and Poland. Poland is home to local production chapters of LG Electronics, LG Chem and Daewoo Electronics while Slovakia has Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hankook Tire factories. Korean Air in July last year also began services to Madrid, where there are branch offices of LG International and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction. Passenger and cargo combined, Korean Air flies directly to 22 European cities at present, and plans to increase that to 30 by 2012.
Servicing Paris for the first time in late March, Asiana Airlines have now secured the three major European cities including London and Frankfurt. Korean flights to Paris now total 17 times weekly with 3 round trip flights by Asiana and 7 each by Korean Air and Air France. An Asiana official says, "Seat shortages have somewhat let up. Flights to Paris have commanded an annual 80% occupancy rate. More competition between airliners can also reduce prices." Asiana is mulling new service to one of the three cities, Warsaw (Poland), Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungary) while seeking service to Rome and Milan in Italy.
There's also a direct flight to northen Europe. Finnish airline Finnair last month began servicing the Incheon-Helsinki route. Head of Finnair Korea Jani Peuhkurinen says, "Air demand between Korea and Europe is growing by double digits annually. Finnair provides the shortest and fastest transit to Europe. Helsinki is the top transfer location when flying to European cities with no direct flights." It takes 8 hours 55 minutes from Incheon to the Finnish capital. To attract Korean passengers, Finnair has Korean staff on board and serves Korean meals.
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