SEOUL, March 5 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s transportation ministry said Tuesday that it issued business licenses to three new budget carriers, a move that could further fuel competition in the already heated no-frills flight market.
The ministry said licenses have been provided to Fly Gangwon, Air Premia Co. and Aero K Airlines Co.
Currently, South Korea has six low cost carriers (LCCs), including market leader Jeju Air Co. and Jin Air Co., which is owned by leading flag carrier Korean Air Lines Co.
The four others are Air Busan, Air Seoul, Eastar Jet and T’way Airlines.
The domestic LCCs have diversified their routes and expanded into new markets to counter the drop in traffic to China, which was affected by the diplomatic row caused by the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile defense system in South Korea.
Helped by the increase in the number of outbound South Koreans and more routes, budget carriers transported 29.2 percent of passengers on international routes operated by Korean airlines last year, up from 26.4 percent in 2017 and 11.5 percent in 2014.
As of last year, the country’s budget carriers operated 140 passenger planes, with Jeju Air having the largest fleet, at 40 jets.
The companies are planning to add 40 more planes to their fleets in 2019.
The ministry said that Fly Gangwon, which is striving to become a “tourism convergence carrier” and secure a fleet of nine B737 jets, is planning to operate flights on 25 international routes to China, Japan and other nations.
Aero K, which has outlined its goal to become a so-called ultra LCC that offers the cheapest fares possible at the expense of amenities like meals and baggage allowances, plans to operate flights on 11 routes connecting nations such as China and Japan. The company said it will acquire six A320 planes.
Air Premia intends to operate medium and long-haul routes to the U.S., Canada and Vietnam and acquire a fleet of seven B787s by 2022.