China has approved the launch of 49 weekly flights by South Korean carriers in a sign of easing tensions over the 2014 deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on the Korean Peninsula. The new service—the first allowed by the Chinese in five years—gives Korean carriers new rights to fly from Seoul Incheon International Airport to Shanghai, Beijing, Yanjin, Shenzhen and Shenyang, and from Busan to Shanghai.
According to an official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) in Seoul, Kim Jung Rak, the development marks a big boost for the aviation and tourism industries of both countries.
“Every South Korean airline is keen to fly to China, and there is aggressive lobbying to either launch flights to new destinations or increase services on existing routes,” Kim said.
Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Air Seoul, Air Busan, T’way Air, and Eastar Jet will all benefit from China’s move. Korean Air and Asiana expect to get a big portion of the extra flights. Despite its plans to drop unprofitable routes to Delhi and Khabarovsk and Sakhalin in Russia starting July 8, Incheon-based Asiana said it welcomes the prospect of highly lucrative additional frequencies to Shanghai and Beijing.
South Korean carriers operate a total of 56 flights a week to Shanghai and 45 to Beijing.
Jin Air, a wholly owned low-cost carrier of Korean Air, cannot expand its network or increase its frequencies due to sanctions imposed on it by the MLIT in August last year as punishment for appointing a foreign national as a board director from 2010 to 2016.
The Ministry decided against revoking Jin Air’s air operating certificate to preserve the 3,000 jobs at the airline.
South Korean aviation law prohibits a foreign national from sitting on a local airline’s board. Jin Air is the first local carrier to have violated the rule. The law also prohibits a foreign airline from establishing a joint venture with a South Korea-based company.