February 18, 2020 13:22
Korean airlines have cut back on flights to Jeju Island by 35 percent since the coronavirus outbreak. The move is due to a sharp decline in the domestic visitors to the southern resort island amid fears of infection because of the large number of Chinese tourists there.
It is a heavy blow since flights to Jeju had been one of the last money-making routes for Korean airlines.
The nine Korean carriers slashed the combined number of flights to Jeju from 1,225 a week to 802 since the outbreak. Korean Air reduced flights from 209 to 169 a week and Asiana from 187 to 96.
Low-cost carriers have been hit particularly hard since they are wholly dependent on short and mid-haul flights, and Jeju was among the most lucrative along with flights to Japan, China and Southeast Asia. But all of those routes have been impacted.
Jeju Air cut the number of weekly flights to Jeju from 230 to 150, Jin Air from 140 to 56, T'way Air from 182 to 112, Eastar Jet from 168 to 131, and Air Busan from 70 to 56. Fly Gangwon, which opened recently, will cut flights to Jeju from 14 to seven a week. Only Air Seoul will maintain its 25.
The latest outbreak has sharply exposed the weaknesses of the domestic airline industry. Domestic carriers rely on international flights for more than 90 percent of their revenues, while routes to Jeju are the only lucrative ones at home. In contrast, airlines in the U.S., China and Japan can rely on domestic routes for more than 50 percent of their revenues and are therefore less sensitive to issues like coronavirus.
Airlines here have gone into emergency mode. Jin Air said Monday that it will offer unpaid leave for a year to workers who apply. Earlier, Jeju Air, T'way Air and Air Busan had their management forego salaries and sought applicants for unpaid leave.
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