Government to abolish mandatory use of flagship carriers
The government abolished a rule obliging its employees to use either Korean Air or Asiana Airlines for official overseas trips, Thursday.
Observers say the measure was taken because the Korean Air owner family’s misbehavior angered the public.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Ministry of Personnel Management, the government decided to end its Government Transportation Request (GTR) sys- tem after using it for 40 years.
Under the GTR, common carrier transportation services were procured for all government officials. The government signed GTR deals with Korean Air in September 1980 and Asiana Airlines in August 1990 and “obliges official travelers to use (Korean) national carriers,” under an order from the prime minister.
The ministries said the government has been retaining the system because it allows the government to secure urgent tickets, change seats and cancel tickets without additional fees, which can be up to 30 percent of the ticket price, but decided to end the system due to “circumstantial changes” surrounding overseas official trips.
In 1980, Korean Air was the only domestic airline, but the country has eight carriers now, with 93 airlines currently flying from and to Korea. The number of outbound Koreans also grew 78 times to 2.65 million last year from 340,000 in 1980.
“The government plans to end GTR deals with airliners by October, after spending all the mileage employees have earned,” an official said.
Replacing the GTR, the government said it will make ministries select their main travel agencies respectively through open bidding and let the agencies make flight bookings.
Though two carriers have been retaining the GTR deals with the government, Korean Air has been virtually monopolizing official transportation services.
According to the Korea Transport Institute, Korean Air sold GTR tickets worth 179.68 billion won to 212,574 government officials from 2010 to 2014, far greater than Asiana Airlines with 42.5 billion during the same period.
The price of tickets also has been at the center of the controversy, with GTR tickets sometimes priced higher than those purchased through travel agencies. The existing rule allows government officials to use other carriers when their tickets are cheaper but not many officials do this because they have to prove the price. “Through this, government officials will buy air tickets at market prices the same as the public,” the official said, adding that the administration expects to save 8 billion won ($7.4 million) annually.