Domestic Flights Hit by Bullet Train Service

The addition of KTX high-speed train services to connect major cities of the southeastern part of the country by linking Ulsan and Pohang areas last November has dealt a blow to airlines flying the route.

According to a report released by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on Wednesday, the number of airline passengers on the Seoul-Ulsan route from last November to April this year plummeted by 39.4 percent on-year from 504,000 to 305,000. The airlines' average occupancy rate on the route dropped by 17.3 percent from 70.7 percent to 53.4 percent during the period.

The number of passengers on the route between Seoul and Pohang also plunged by 19.8 percent from 141,000 to 113,000 and the occupancy rate from 53.1 percent to 45.4 percent.

On the other hand, the number of passengers traveling from Seoul to Ulsan on the KTX train reached 893,000 within six months after its launch. Travelers from Seoul to Pohang via the KTX's Singyeongju Station recorded 549,000.

Passengers on flights between Seoul and Busan dropped by a mere 3.2 percent during the period, and the occupancy rate by 0.6 percent from 67.5 to 66.9 percent.

An insider with the Korea Transport Institute said, "Once the KTX bullet train network is completed and it connects to routes covering Jeolla Province, airlines may be faced with cutting their domestic services down to just a few routes."

englishnews@chosun.com / May 19, 2011 11:21 KST