Air transportation in South Korea - Statistics & Facts

The South Korean air transport industry is rated as one of the most efficient in the world and continues to show strong, steady growth. International passenger traffic from South Korea has more than quadrupled in the past twenty years, while cargo traffic doubled over the same time period. Domestic passenger traffic has also experienced steady growth since the founding of the first low-cost carrier, Jeju Air in 2005. South Korea’s primary international airport, Incheon International Airport, handles the majority of air traffic in South Korea and is fifth in the world in terms of international passenger traffic. Over three-quarters of these passengers are from other Asian countries, and approximately two-thirds use Korean airlines. In contrast, half the international cargo traffic in Korea is borne by international airlines.

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are the two full-service carrier airlines in South Korea. The decade and more since 2005 has also seen the rapid growth of low-cost carriers. Led by Jeju Air, there are currently seven airlines offering low-cost flights. Korean low-cost carriers mostly service domestic and eastern and southeastern Asian international destinations, such as China, Vietnam, or Japan.

Korean Air is South Korea’s flagship carrier, as well as the largest and oldest. Established shortly after the Second World War as a private airline, it was nationalized before it was privatized again in 1969. Korean Air operates 169 aircraft and flies to 124 destinations, and in 2017 made nearly twelve trillion Korean won in sales, more than every other Korean airline combined. Korean Air also created the low-cost carrier Jin Air, currently the second-largest Korean low-cost carrier after Jeju Air.

South Korea’s second-oldest major airline is Asiana Airlines. It was founded in 1988 by other domestic interests hoping to break Korean Air’s monopoly of the domestic airline industry. Today, Asiana is clearly behind Korean Air in fleet size and the number of destinations serviced, but nevertheless is the second-ranking airline in South Korea. Asiana is a major shareholder of Air Busan and wholly owns and operates Air Seoul as a subsidiary.

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Air transportation in South Korea

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Incheon International Airport

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