Posted July. 18, 2017 07:24,
Updated July. 18, 2017 07:41
Two charted flights bound for China have earned permission for operation from the Chinese authority since Beijing started retaliation for THAAD deployment in South Korea. It is the first permission from Beijing since the Chinese civil aviation authority banned operation of charted flights linking South Korea and China from late last year.
Jeju Air said on Monday that it recently won permission for operation of non-regular chartered flights between Cheongju Airport in South Korea and Zhangjiajie in China from the Chinese authority. The chartered flights will operate twice on July 25 and 29, respectively. They will carry 180 South Korean tourists in each flight.
Non-regular flights are mostly products sold by travel agencies for specific tourist destinations in China, and those agencies recruit Korean tourists before using low cost carriers as chartered flights to transport them. Jeju Air has applied the Chinese authority for permission for one or two non-regular chartered flights every month.
However, the Chinese government hadn't given any permission for operation of all chartered flights since late last year. In March this year, Beijing completely banned sale of group tour products to South Korea. As a result, regular flight routes between South Korea and China operated by domestic carriers have also significantly declined, with Korean Air having reduced the number of flights on eight routes with China. Some of regular flight routes were resumed last month, but regular flights have yet to fully recover the pre-conflict level.
China’s permission for non-regular flights is noteworthy in that it can be a signal to revitalizing of South Korea-China tourism exchange, which has been in a deep slump. Tourism industry insiders are still cautious about optimism, saying that China’s first permission for non-regular flights cannot be directly linked to easing of Beijing’s retaliation for THAAD deployment in South Korea.
The flights that have won permission this time is for only South Korean tourists bound for China. Analysts say that the measure is effectively the Chinese government’s bid to shore up its own tourism industry. “We cannot believe that the ramifications of Beijing’s retaliation for THAAD has been resolved just yet, but it will help reopen routes for non-regular flights to China,” a source in the South Korean aviation industry said.