Air Bu­san’s op­er­a­tions at In­cheon air­port to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Korea Times - - HOTEL/TOURISM - By Kim Hyun-bin hyun­[email protected]­re­

Air Bu­san is sched­uled to launch flights from In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port start­ing Novem­ber and will look to use this to in­crease its pres­ence among the coun­try’s low-cost car­ri­ers (LCC), the air­line’s CEO said Wed­nes­day.

Based in the port city, so far all the air­line’s in­ter­na­tional flights have con­nected Bu­san with over­seas des­ti­na­tions, ex­cept for two that op­er­ated out of Daegu.

“With Air Bu­san’s proven safety and dif­fer­en­ti­ated ser­vices, we will also be­come pop­u­lar with users of In­cheon air­port,” CEO Han Taekeun said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Plaza Ho­tel in Seoul. “We will fully pre­pare so Air Bu­san can gain com­pet­i­tive­ness in a big­ger mar­ket.”

Air Bu­san will launch flights on the In­cheon-Ningbo route, Nov. 12, its first from In­cheon. The following day the air­line will start op­er­a­tions be­tween In­cheon and Shen­zhen.

The car­rier has also been given slots on five more in­ter­na­tional routes this year in­clud­ing to Chengdu, Gaox­iong and Cebu.

Han ex­pressed op­ti­mism over the soon-to-be-launched Chi­nese routes.

“There are many lo­cals in Ningbo who visit Korea. Among pas­sen­gers, around 70 per­cent are from Ningbo vis­it­ing Korea and 30 per­cent, from Korea vis­it­ing Ningbo. Sim­i­lar to ser­vices to Gaox­iong we ex­pect more Chi­nese to visit Korea,” Han said. “In the case of Shen­zhen, there are around 1,200 mid- to large-sized Korean com­pa­nies. Only local full-ser­vice car­ri­ers have op­er­ated there so far, so many com­pa­nies will come to us to re­duce costs.”

The air­line plans to ap­ply mar­ket­ing strate­gies that best suit each des­ti­na­tion.

“The Ningbo route is pop­u­lar from the start, but for the Shen­zhen route we will fo­cus on price mar­ket­ing, while for other routes, we will ap­peal with the air­line’s co­zi­ness and larger legroom com­pared to other LCCs,” he said.

To dif­fer­en­ti­ate from other bud­get air­lines, Air Bu­san will add two Air­bus A321­neos to its fleet early next year, which will make the air­line the first to use the jets in Asia.

The A321­neo is more fuel ef­fi­cient than Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 and can fly up to 1,000 kilo­me­ters fur­ther. It can there­fore reach Jakarta, Sin­ga­pore and New Delhi, creat­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties, the air­line said.

The car­rier is set to op­er­ate eight A321­neos by 2021 for a to­tal fleet of 31.

Air Bu­san saw a 21.8 bil­lion won deficit ($18.6 million) for the sec­ond quar­ter, and ex­pects to see more red ink for the third and fourth quar­ters as there has been a dras­tic re­duc­tion in Kore­ans trav­el­ing to Ja­panese des­ti­na­tions, due to the “Boy­cott Japan” move­ment. Han said that even with op­er­a­tions from In­cheon, it will be dif­fi­cult to move into profit for the time be­ing as bud­get car­ri­ers rely heav­ily on Ja­panese routes for prof­itabil­ity.

“If the Japan is­sue is not re­solved, there is no al­ter­na­tive to counter it. Due to the Korea-Japan trade dis­pute, the de­mand for Ja­panese des­ti­na­tions has shrunk and air­lines have been di­vert­ing their flights to South­east Asia. But Tai­wan, Danang and most des­ti­na­tions in South­east Asia are over­sup­plied, which in turn re­duces profit,” he said.

The CEO said many Kore­ans fa­vored trav­el­ing to Japan as it could be vis­ited over the week­end, whereas South­east Asian coun­tries need at least three to four days.

Cour­tesy of Air Bu­san

Air Bu­san CEO Han Tae-keun talks about the air­line’s vi­sion in line with the start of op­er­a­tions at In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port, dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Plaza ho­tel in Seoul, Wed­nes­day.

Cour­tesy of Air Bu­san

Air Bu­san cur­rently serves on six do­mes­tic and 32 in­ter­na­tional routes.

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