New Airline to Challenge Flag Carriers on Longer-Haul Routes

  • By Gwak Rae-geon

    May 15, 2018 12:37

    A new airline is challenging flag carriers on their mainstay mid to long-haul routes.

    Air Premia said Monday it wants to apply for a flight license from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in July, with actual flights to start in late 2019.

    Air Premia claims it is not a budget carrier but will offer more comfortable seats on mid to long-haul routes than existing economy seats at a lower price.

    It will only offer only two types of seats -- economy and premium economy. And where economy seats on big airlines measure 32 to 34 inches and on budget carriers 28 to 30 inches, Air Premia will make them 35 inches in economy and 42 inches in premium economy. Prices will be 90 to 140 percent of those of big airlines.

    It aims to fly to popular destinations for Koreans like San Jose, California and Helsinki, Finland, a popular stopover to Europe. The targeted routes are destinations the flag carriers have yet to tap but where they offer connecting flights with other airlines.

    Air Premia is eying a stable of around 10 new Boeing 787s or Airbus A350s within the next five years. A smaller fleet cuts down on maintenance fees, and the new planes boast better fuel efficiency, which will make tickets cheaper, according to the airline.

    The Korean aviation industry has been experiencing explosive growth in recent years. The number of people traveling abroad reached 26.49 million last year, which is higher than Japan's 17.88 million, but the growing demand has mainly benefited domestic budget carriers flying short-haul routes and foreign airlines on longer flights.

    Huh Hee-young at Korea Aerospace University said foreign carriers' share of the long-haul flight market in Korea rose from 30.7 percent in 2011 to 38 percent last year.

    Air Premia is focusing on customers who choose premium economy seats, which fall between business and economy class, and foreign airlines already offer more of these than Korea's staid flag carriers.

    "Many people buy premier economy-class seats because they don't want to pay too much for business-class seats on domestic airlines but feel their economy seats are too cramped," an Air Premia staffer said. "We expect demand for premium seats on mid to long-haul flights to increase in Korea as more people go abroad." 

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