Airlines Vie for Lucrative Flights to Mongolia

  • By Chae Sung-jin

    February 15, 2019 12:26

    Korean airlines are competing fiercely for lucrative flight routes to Mongolia after the two sides agreed to allow multiple carriers to fly between Incheon and Ulaanbaatar last month.

    Until now flag carrier Korean Air has monopolized the route over the last three decades.

    Flag carriers are trying to consolidate their presence in the mid and long-haul market while low-cost carriers are striving to expand to it. They are angling for three flights a week or 840 seats that will become available in addition to the current six flights a week.

    Second-ranked Asiana Airlines believes its 290-seater Airbus A330 is more than capable of covering the new route. "Planes owned by low-cost carriers typically have only 189 seats, so they would forfeit around 270 seats to cover the newly opened flights."

    Korean Air has also applied for the new slots, but its chances of getting its monopoly enforced are low. Jeju Air, T'way Air and Eastar Jet plan to plead their cases by pointing to their low fares. They insist that monopolistic control of key routes by the two major carriers must end.

    One staffer at a budget carrier said, "Korean Air flights to Mongolia cost around W1 million, but we offer flights to Hong Kong, which is about the same distance, for just W300,000. We need to boost competition to change the price structure" (US$1=W1,128).

    The Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure will convene a selection committee meeting on Feb. 25 or 26 to decide the winners of the route. "We will evaluate various factors and award licenses to the highest scorer," a ministry spokesman said.

    The ministry plans to keep the identities of the 10 members of the committee a secret to protect them from outside pressure.

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