South Korean low-cost operators Jeju Air and T’way Air swung to their first annual profit since the Covid-19 pandemic, helped by strong demand on Japan and Southeast Asia operations.  

Both carriers also reported record revenues for the year to 31 December 2023, as efforts to diversify operations – Jeju Air with an increased focus on cargo and T’way with medium- to long-haul operations – pay off. 

Jeju Air 737-800

Source: Jeju Air

A Jeju Air 737-800

Jeju Air reported a full-year operating profit of W170 billion ($128 million), compared to the W178 billion loss in the year-ago period. The figure is its highest-ever operating profit in its 18-year history, and about 68% higher than its previous record profit in 2017. 

Full-year revenue stood at W1.72 trillion – more than double than 2022 – as passenger travel demand remained robust through the year. The airline introduced two new aircraft in the final quarter of 2023, helping boost capacity through the year-end peak travel period. 

Jeju also notes a steady increase in cargo revenue, with the introduction of dedicated freighters to its fleet. The airline’s fledgling cargo business now has two 737 freighters in it fleet, and is hoping to grow its cargo operations in the near term. 

As for T’way, it recorded an annual operating profit of W138 billion, swinging from the W105 billion loss in 2022. 

T’way saw its revenue for the year more than double to W1.35 trillion, amid “rapid increase in demand” for its short-haul operations to Japan and Southeast Asia. The airline also notes demand for medium-haul flights - to Sydney and Singapore - is growing. 

T’way introduced widebody operations with Airbus A330-300s in 2022, becoming the first South Korean low-cost carrier to fly to Australia. It now has three A330s in its fleet and is looking to introduce two more this year.

T’way will also mark its foray into the European market this year, with flights to Zagreb in Croatia scheduled to commence in May. It notes that medium- to long-haul flights will remain a focus for the year, as it plans for expansion “in earnest and continue to pioneer new routes”.