October 11, 2022 11:00
Airlines are reluctant to boost flights to Japan and other overseas destinations despite a surge in demand, which is driving up ticket prices. Travelers are expected to keep paying double or triple the pre-pandemic prices.
Round trips from Incheon to Osaka cost between W500,000 and W800,000, from Incheon to Tokyo's Narita between W400,000 and W600,000, and more than W700,000 from Gimpo to Haneda (US$1=W1,412). Back in 2019, plane tickets to Japan cost W100,000-200,000 for the round trip.
Travel bookings to Japan at Hana Tour surged 1,268 percent in the first three weeks of September compared to a year ago and at Mode Tour 2,400 percent, but airlines are dragging their feet putting on more flights.
Jeju Air, which used to operate 1,084 flights to Japan a month before the pandemic, currently offers just 568, while Asiana offers only 29 flights a week, down from 143 in the summer of 2019.
Airline operators are nervous until they can be certain of a full-fledged recovery in demand. One staffer at a budget carrier said, "We would like to return to previous levels, but we suffered tremendously during the pandemic and are worried about catastrophic losses if we rush to boost flights."
A staffer at another airline said, "We have to be sure that our planes will not return empty and we don't think travel demand has recovered to that extent."
Japan resumed visa-free entry for tourists on Tuesday for the first time since the pandemic.
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