April 07, 2022 11:50
Just as the aviation industry looked set to begin recovering from the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions, it is now being hit by soaring oil prices.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Wednesday announced plans to increase the number of international flights from 420 per week this month to 520 next month and 620 in June, with the aim of returning to almost 50 percent of the pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.
Buoyed by the plans, Korean flagship carriers are already moving to increase their international flights.
Starting from next month, Korean Air will increase flights to Hawaii from three times a week to five. Its flights to Toronto and Paris will also be increased from three times a week to four, while those to Guam and Sydney will be doubled from twice a week to four times a week.
Another flagship carrier, Asiana Airlines, which resumed flights to Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii this month, plans to expand the number of long-haul flights to destinations like Los Angeles and Sydney from May.
Despite an anticipated recovery in the number of travelers, airlines are worried about soaring oil prices, which will force them to raise passengers' fuel surcharges, pouring cold water on the rebound.
The surcharges on international routes have been gradually raised since early last year after remaining at almost zero for about a year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. They depend on jet fuel prices traded on the benchmark Singaporean market, which stood at around $60 per barrel last year, but recently soared above $120 per barrel after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"The rising oil prices are not yet having a major impact since the number of international flights remains below 10 percent of the previous year's, but if they continue to increase, domestic carriers could suffer eventually," an industry official said.
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