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Air transportation in South Korea - Statistics & Facts

The 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 (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 has recently opened Terminal 2 and thus, will be able to handle more passengers and cargo in the future.

In 2019, the number of both domestic and international passengers rose due to the increase of travel popularity. However, air cargo decreased slightly, likely due to the trade disputes between the U.S. and China and also Japan's export restrictions. Air passenger traffic grew significantly in China, Asia (excluding Japan), and Europe. As for Asian routes, passengers from Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan have increased significantly due to the expansion of low-cost airlines into Asia. Domestic travel recorded the highest number of passengers thanks to the 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 has also increased significantly.

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

As the coronavirus started to spread throughout the world from the beginning of 2020, a high number of countries closed their borders. As a result, almost all 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 also decreased by 94 percent. Airfreight remained at a similar level as last year due to the increased exports of medical supplies and IT-related items such as semiconductors, computers, and smartphones. In February, when the coronavirus hit the country strongly, the airline's revenue fell 84.4 percent from the same period a year ago. In response, the Korean government announced financial aid package to help airline companies.

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Air transportation in South Korea

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Impacts of COVID-19

Low-cost carriers (LCCs)


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