Air Seoul to focus on Asian routes for growth

Air Seoul Inc., a South Korean budget carrier, said Thursday it will focus its business on foreign destinations and has no plan to fly on domestic routes.

Air Seoul President & CEO Ryu Kwang-hee announces the budget carrier's plans to expand routes and increase its fleet in a press conference held onboard a A321-200 jet,

Air Seoul President & CEO Ryu Kwang-hee announces the budget carrier's plans to expand routes and increase its fleet in a press conference held onboard a A321-200 jet,

In October last year, Air Seoul joined the country's five low-cost carriers -- Jin Air Co., Jeju Air Co., Air Busan Co., Eastar Jet and T'way Air Co. -- to take advantage of the rapidly growing low-cost travel demand.

"We do not have a plan to operate domestic routes for now. We will expand short and mid-haul routes mainly to Asian cities by offering differentiated services through cost-cutting efforts," Air Seoul President & Chief Executive Ryu Kwang-hee said in a press conference.

Currently, Air Seoul serves eight routes to Japan and three to Southeast Asian cities -- Macau in the Philippines, Siem Reap in Cambodia and Malaysia's Kota Kinabalu.

It plans to add four routes to Osaka, Narita, Guam and Hong Kong from September to October, Ryu said.

To serve the 12 routes, Air Seoul said it will lease two more 195-seat A321-200 jets this year to its fleet now composed of three airplanes, he said. It pays 400 million won (US$350,352) per plane each month to Airbus.

The company plans to increase its fleet to 15 by 2020 by adding two planes each year, with an aim to make a turnaround next year.

"We are trying to achieve 130 billion won in sales," the president said. There is no comparative sales figure as it began operations eight months ago.

In 2016, the country's six budget carriers transported 56.8 percent of the passengers on domestic routes and 19.6 percent of the passengers traveling abroad. The figures were up from 54.6 percent and 14.6 percent a year earlier, respectively, according to the transport ministry.

Last year, passengers on domestic routes jumped 11 percent on-year to 30.91 million and passengers on international routes climbed 19 percent to 73 million, the ministry said.

Air Seoul is a wholly owned unit of Asiana Airlines Inc., the country's second-biggest carrier after Korean Air Lines Co. (Source: The Yonhap)

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