Airlines Competing for Routes to Paris, US
By Kim Rahn
Airlines are vying to expand international routes to meet growing demand in the spring and summer seasons.
Korea's two largest airlines, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are competing to secure the command of the air route to Paris.
Since 1975, Korean Air has been the only Korean carrier to provide a passenger service on the Seoul-Paris route. However, following a new aviation agreement between the two countries, Asiana will also fly to the European city starting March 31 ― the carrier's long-cherished dream.
Asiana is promoting the new service on a large scale to eat into Korean Airs market share.
Asiana will operate three weekly flights to Paris, while Korean Air is offering daily operations and an additional seven operations through codesharing with Air France. Asiana plans to make up for the relative infrequency by offering cheaper airfares: Its price for a roundtrip ticket is about 300,000 won lower than Korean Air's. The carrier will also sell business class seats at an auction on its Web site between April 1 and 7. Bidding for seats, the original fare of which is 4.5 million won, will begin at 999,000 won.
It will also provide souvenirs to all passengers using the Seoul-Paris route in April. Also, passengers can get a bottle of French wine at Printemps department store in Paris if they show their flight ticket and passport. A thousand bottles of wine will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
Korean Air considers that Asiana's operation will not largely encroach on its market position: Asiana will provide its service to three European cities including Paris, but Korean Air is already operating to 13 cities.
However, the airline cannot but brace itself up against Asiana: It provides the tickets at 930,000 won online in a special promotion. It also promoted its sponsorship of Musee de Lourve's multimedia guide and its effort to add Korean language to the guide.
The competition is keen for American routes as well.
Carriers expect that the U.S. will adopt the visa waiver program for Koreans in the latter half of this year and that it will lead to a three- to four-fold increase in the number of travelers.
Korean Air will expand the operation between Incheon and Dallas from the current three per week to four, and that between Incheon and San Francisco, from four to seven. Besides the cities, the carrier provides services to Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington and Hawaii, and plans to expand the frequency or open new routes.
Asiana, which used to focus on short- and mid-haul routes, will also increase its operation on the Incheon-LA route from 12 to 13, and on the Incheon-New York, from four to seven.