South Korea's two national carriers are making sweeping cutbacks in international services, as the country's economic difficulties increase. Air New Zealand (ANZ), Ansett International and Qantas have suspended all flights from Australia to Seoul.

Asiana Airlines has announced a complete halt to services from Seoul to Europe until at least 28 March, as local passenger traffic plummets. Cutbacks include the airline's recently launched twice-weekly flights to Frankfurt and two combined weekly frequencies to Frankfurt and Brussels.

The airline has put an indefinite stop on three-weekly passenger flights from Cheong Ju and Kwang Ju, via Pusan, to Osaka in Japan. Another 14 weekly flights from Seoul to Hawaii and Macau, from Pusan to Bangkok and from Cheong Ju/Pusan to Saipan, have been suspended for the next three months, while its cargo service to Macau is on hold.

Korean Air (KAL) has been forced to take similarly drastic action in an effort to stem mounting financial losses. Passenger services which have already, or are to be, temporarily discontinued, include daily services to Guam and Saipan, twice-weekly passenger flights from Seoul to Kumamoto and Nagasaki in Japan and thrice-weekly to Macau. Weekly cargo flights to Manado and Johor Baru are also being temporarily stopped.

Both airlines have cut back frequencies to destinations and are expected to announce further cuts. KAL has sold and leased back two Boeing 747s and four Airbus A300s and is planning to sell another three 747s in 1998. To absorb the shortfall, Asiana is encouraging many of its 8,000-strong workforce to take between one- and 12-month "unpaid vacations."

ANZ and Australia's two international carriers are shutting down all services to the country, in the wake of the South Korean Government ban on foreign-holiday advertising. "A major contraction in demand for overseas travel in South Korea, the significant decline in the value of the won and the generally uncertain outlook in the Korean market made a suspension prudent at this time," says ANZ chief executive Jim McCrea.

Ansett, which has experienced a drop in load factors to around 30%, plans to use its spare 747 to increase flights to Shanghai. Some major European and US carriers are believed to be reviewing the level of operations to South Korea.

Source: Flight International