Jeju Air to Start Regular International Service
By Kim Rahn
Jeju Air has become the nation's first low cost carrier to operate regular international flights.
The Jeju Island-based carrier said Wednesday that it obtained the license for regular operations for two international routes between Incheon and Osaka and Incheon and Kitakyushu.
It plans to provide daily service on the Incheon-Osaka route and thrice-weekly service on the Incheon-Kitakyushu route starting March 20 next year. A 189-seat B737-800 aircraft will fly on the routes.
``Jeju Air is the first Korean budget airline to operate regular international services. It will differentiate Jeju Air from other low cost carriers that started later than us, such as Jin Air and Air Busan. Jeju Air will also position itself as the third civil airline in the country following Korean Air and Asiana Airlines,'' a Jeju Air official said.
The operation will also bring significant change to the air travel market, she said, because it means a new airfare rate for international flights.
The carrier will set the fare at about 75 percent of those of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. ``The low fare will open a new era for air service, toughening competition in international operation markets and creating new demand from young travelers and family tourists,'' the official said.
She said Jeju Air selected the two routes following its charter operation experience of the last six months.
Since July, the airline has operated some 100 irregular flights to Japanese cities, such as Hiroshima, Sapporo, Kagoshima, Kochi, Matsuyama, Osaka and Kitakyushu, and decided on the last two cities, from which stable demand is expected.
Osaka, with a population of 17 million, has strong demand. ``About 70 percent of trips between Incheon and Osaka are individual travelers, usually young people. As we will provide the lowest fare among airlines operating on the routes, we'll be able to attract the young generations of the two nations,'' the official said.
Kitakyushu is a niche market that other carriers do not fly to. The Japanese city government actively encouraged Jeju Air to operate there, promising to cut airport facility fees for the carrier and finance its marketing.
``We'll prepare to become a leading budget carrier in Northeast Asia,'' she said.
Jeju Air, founded jointly by Aekyung Group and Jeju Island, began domestic operation in June 2006. It started international charter operation in July this year, following an aviation rule that grants international licenses only to carriers with at least two years of domestic experience. The airline has four 78-seat Q400 turboprops and two B737-800 jets and will adopt two more B737s next year.