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South Korea seeks to expand network in Southeast Asia

South Korea is looking to expand air traffic rights within Southeast Asia, specifically Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei, to diversify its network.

It is also in talks to expand its network in Northern Asia region, says the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) in a statement.

The ministry notes that flights to Japan declined by 21.2% year-on-year from July to October, and that local carriers have channelled capacity to China, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

To accommodate these changes, MOLIT allowed for flexible operations at Seoul Incheon International airport to minimise downtime and maximise available air traffic rights.

“(MOLIT) supports the airline's smooth route diversification by providing maximum support for slots, aircraft takeoffs and landing times, and proactively permitting regular and irregular flights and changing plans,” it says.

Last month, local media reports indicate that Seoul has been in talks with ASEAN members to remove restrictions on non-stop flight operations.

Reports indicate that South Korea is likely to push for the fifth freedom right with Singapore, at next week’s ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit at Busan.

The government plans to discuss simplifying visa application procedures and reinforce aviation ties, with the aim of pushing visitor numbers to 15 million by 2020, the reports state.

MOLIT notes that air travel has grown on the back of a burgeoning low-cost market, alongside an expanded open skies policy with Japan that took effect in 2013, allowing unlimited routes and airlines to fly into Tokyo Narita.

Figures provided by the ministry point to an annual average growth rate of 9.6% in passenger numbers from 2014 to 2018. In the first half of 2019, Japanese tourist accounted for 25% of international visitors to South Korea with 46% of South Korean LCCs’ network concentrated in Japan.

According to MOLIT, popular short-haul destinations from South Korea include Shandong and Hainan provinces in China; Taiwan; Hong Kong; Macau; Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and seven other destinations in Southeast Asia; Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in Russia; and in the US, Guam and Saipan, among others.