International Flight Premature for Jeju Air
Korea’s low cost carriers will not be able to offer overseas flights for a while, following the government’s recent decision not to permit the service until they have had sufficient experience and proved they operate safety.
Jeju Air, a budget, regional airline, applied last month to the Ministry of Construction and Transportation for an irregular charter flight operation between Pusan and the Japanese city of Kitakyushu.
The Cheju (Jeji) Island-based carrier, which started operation last June, has operated turboprop planes on three domestic routes between Seoul and Cheju, Kimpo and Yangyang, and Pusan and Cheju.
It more recently planned overseas operation to neighboring countries including Japan and China.
But the ministry turned down the application, saying it is premature for the airline to launch international operations, while recommending it acquire more experience in domestic operation.
``Jeju Air is only an eight-month-old carrier. Airlines need to acquire experience to operate international routes, either regular flights or charter ones, as it is a sensitive matter involving diplomatic relations of the countries concerned,’’ a ministry official said.
Foreign countries also have strict standards regarding their domestic carriers’ operation of international flights. It takes about two to five years for airlines to be granted such permission, she said.
Jeju Air claimed there was no legal problem over its operation of an irregular charter flight, saying it will apply again as many visitors are expected in Cheju during Japan’s golden week in May. It claimed it cannot make sufficient profit by operating only its domestic service. But the ministry said it would not give permission until safety was assured.
``An international service is quite different from a domestic one, as planes fly in other countries’ territorial airspace. It is difficult to give a permission to a new carrier, as it takes time to confirm the airline’s safety,’’ the official said.
But there has been no clear standard of what constitutes ``enough experience,’’ as it has been only two years since the nation has had budget carriers.
In the case of Korean Air, it was a government-run carrier until it was denationalized in 1969. Asiana Airlines started as a big carrier from the beginning in 1988 under the government’s effort to expand international operations ahead of the Olympic Games in Seoul, the official said.
The ministry plans to conduct a study into the conditions concerning low cost carriers’ international operations and prepare regulations by the end of the year.
``We also hope Jeju Air will operate international routes, as we believe it will help develop the nation’s air travel market. We’ll let the carrier go out as soon as it is ready,’’ she said.