Visa Waiver Program Leads to More Airline Routes to US
By Kim Rahn
Airlines are rescheduling their flights to the United States, as the demand for flights to the country is expected to rise significantly following a visa waiver program.
The program, which will take effect next Monday, allows Koreans to travel to the U.S. visa-free for up to 90 days.
In the case of Japan, the number of tourists to American cities doubled in three years after the visa waiver program was adopted in 1986. Tourism and aviation experts here forecast the number of Korean travelers to double in less than three years.
In turn, carriers, having decreased capacity or frequency to the U.S. since the beginning of this year due to soaring fuel cost and a declining number of travelers amid the economic slump, are moving to increase the number of flights.
Korean Air will resume the flights between Incheon and Las Vegas on Dec. 16 with three weekly. It suspended the flights in September due to low demand.
The airline will also increase the frequency of the Incheon-Washington and Incheon-San Francisco routes to seven per week from the current four starting Dec. 11 and 12, respectively.
Expecting growing demand, Korean Air already resumed flights on the Incheon-Los Angeles-Sao Paulo route in June, on which it had stopped operating in 2001 due to low demand after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
``We are considering increasing capacity or frequency for Hawaii and Los Angeles, as tourist demand for the regions are forecast to rise when the visa waiver program starts,'' a Korean Air official said.
The carrier plans to put A380 super jumbo jets, which will be delivered from 2010, on the routes to U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and New York. B787 planes, which the airline will adopt in 2011, will fly on long-range routes to the U.S.
Asiana Airlines will increase the frequency of Incheon-Seattle flights to four per week from the current three starting Dec. 11. From Dec. 16, the number of weekly flights between Incheon and Los Angeles will also rise to 14 from 11.
``We expect the demand for flights to the U.S. to increase by about 12 percent and annual gains by some 25 billion won,'' an Asiana official said.