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Air transportation in South Korea - statistics and facts

The South Korean air transport industry is regarded as one of the most efficient industries in the world and continues to grow strongly and steadily. Over the past 20 years, Korea's international passenger and cargo traffic volumes have steadily increased. The opening of Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main international airport, in 2001 has played an important role in the air transportation industry in Asia and around the world. Incheon Airport opened Terminal 2 a few years ago, thereby increasing its capacity to handle even more passengers and cargo.

South Korea's air transport industry pre-COVID-19

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of both domestic and international passengers were on the rise due to the increase of South Korea's popularity as a tourist destination. However, air cargo movement had decreased slightly, likely due to the trade disputes between the U.S. and China and also Japan's export restrictions imposed at the time. Meanwhile, air passenger traffic had grown significantly in China, Asia (excluding Japan), and Europe. As for Asian routes, passengers from Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan increased significantly due to the expansion of low-cost airlines into Asia. Domestic travel recorded the highest number of passengers thanks to increased travel to Jeju Island. Due to the expansion of short- and medium-distance routes, as well as rising domestic travel, the number of passengers at airports located in the provinces such as Cheongju Airport and Muan Airport had also increased significantly.

Who are the leaders of the air transport industry in South Korea?

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are the two leading full-service airlines in Korea. Korean Air is the country's leading, largest, and oldest airline. Korean Air also found Jin Air, which is the second-largest domestic low-cost airline after Jeju Air. Another major airline that operates in South Korea is Asiana Airlines. The company is a major shareholder of Air Busan and also is the owner of Air Seoul. Interestingly, there has been a rapid growth of low-cost airlines since 2005. There are currently seven airlines offering low-cost flights. South Korean low-cost airlines mainly serve domestic and international destinations in Asia, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, or Taiwan.

How did COVID-19 affect the South Korean air transportation industry?

As the coronavirus started to spread throughout the world from the beginning of 2020, a large number of countries closed their borders. As a result, the majority of flights were canceled, which had a major impact on the airline industry. In March 2020, airline passenger departures in South Korea declined 95 percent compared to the same period last year, and arrivals had also decreased by 94 percent. Airfreight remained at a similar level the previous year due to the increased exports of medical supplies and IT-related items such as semiconductors, computers, and smartphones. In February 2020, when the coronavirus broke out in the nation, the revenue for airlines fell 84.4 percent from the same period a year ago. In response, the South Korean government announced financial aid package to help airline companies. As the world begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines will also try to bounce back from the hardships of the last couple of years.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "Air transportation in South Korea".

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