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Chinese budget carriers to resume S. Korea-bound routes

Posted October. 30, 2017 07:52,   

Updated October. 30, 2017 08:06


Amidst signs of alleviated tensions between Seoul and Beijing over the THAAD deployment, Chinese airlines have started to resume their South Korea-bound routes, which have been suspended since March. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Korea’s Ambassador to China Noh Young-min met in Beijing on Sunday for the first time and shared expectations over the development of South Korea-China relationship.

China’s budget carrier Spring Airlines Co., which suspended its Ningbo-Jeju Island routes from July due to a decrease in the number of passengers, has notified through its homepage that it plans to resume its flight service, connecting Ningbo and Jeju Island, three times a week starting from Tuesday. The airline company applied for an MOU to the competent authority of both countries and received approval. It has been identified that Spring Airlines is carefully looking through expanding its Shanghai-Jeju Island routes, which are continuing to be in service.

“The fact that Chinese budget carriers, which suspended South Korea bound trips after experiencing a steep decrease in demand as China limited traveling, will resume its flights to South Korea, is because of heightened expectations over improvements in South Korea-China relationship,” said a source from China. “It seems that China is preparing in case China’s Ministry of Tourism withdraws its prohibition on group tourism once the THAAD issue is resolved.”

Nevertheless, the resumption of South Korea-bound routes of major Chinese airlines, which can be regarded as a decisive evidence that China has halted prohibiting group tourism to South Korea, cannot be sure yet. The number of South Korea-China routes from Sunday to March 26, 2018 is approximately 1,050, which is 16 percent lower compared to the same period last year. The routes are approved by the Chinese government twice a year and it is premature to say that the total number of South Korea-China routes are in the way of recovery.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com