By Will Lee
South Korea Quarantine Rules Come to an End as Airlines Hope for Relief
South Korea has gradually reopened its border after two years of the pandemic. The decision has come after the flattening of the coronavirus curve in the country. Starting this week, the country will drop its quarantine rules and welcome foreign arrivals regardless of the travelers’ vaccine status. The travelers need to provide a negative result of a coronavirus test before 72 hours of arrival.
Incheon International Airport, the gateway to the country, will resume to a 24 hours operation. In addition, the capital’s airport is maximizing its capacity to pre-pandemic levels, allowing 40 flights to operate every hour. Since the pandemic has begun, the airport banned flights from operating between 8 pm and 5 am.
The country has seen a demand surge following travel restrictions being scrapped, Incheon International Airport handled nearly 45,000 passengers last weekend, the highest number since the pandemic. But the situation is yet to return to normal; Incheon handled over 200,000 passengers daily before the pandemic.
The lifting of travel restrictions will be welcomed by budget carriers as well. Two mainstream airlines, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, have been benefiting from the demand surge in the cargo services during the pandemic. However, the budget carriers have more than their fair share due to lack of cargo services.
Koreans have started returning to the skies since this year, but the low-cost carriers have been experiencing a slow start. According to the South Korean Government, the number of international passengers on budget carriers, such as Jeju Air, T’way Air, Jin Air, Air Seoul and Air Busan, in May were 60,717, an increase of 86% compared to the previous month, thanks to the resumption to Guam and other Southeast Asian destinations. However, the figure has shown only 3% to pre-pandemic levels. The passenger capacity of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines was 288,194 and 212,224 respectively.
Meanwhile, South Korea keeps bolstering its connection to Japan. The country is going to resume flight services between Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in June. According to Korea Airport Corp, the operator of Gimpo International Airport, Jeju International and other 12 airports across the country, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, will provide 16 flights every week in June.
“This year is not a time for recovery to pre-Covid-19 levels but a time for a leap forward in the new aviation industry.” Yoon Hyeong-Joon, President and CEO of Korea Airports Corp said.
Korean Airport Corp has expected 2.52 million passengers flying from domestic airports, only 12.4% of the pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, Jeju International Airport will start operating new routes to Singapore and Bangkok this month.