The number of international travellers spiked to 1.28 million last month, surging 420% year-on-year, despite surging airfares and insufficient flight schedules, the Transport Ministry of Korea said.
This was the first time that the number of monthly international travellers surpassed 1 million since the outbreak of COVID-19. The increase in international travel demand is likely to help the Transport Ministry achieve its goal of restoring the number of inbound and outbound flights to 50% of the 2019 level by the end of this year.
The Transport Ministry fully lifted aviation restrictions, including a curfew on flights landing at Incheon Airport, from June 8, more than two years after the enforcement of the antivirus regulations. To further boost travel demand, the ministry plans to authorise air carriers to increase international flights. The country’s largest air carrier, Korean Air, plans to restore the supply of international flight seats to 50% of the pre-pandemic level by September. Asiana Airlines is also augmenting the number of flights to the U.S. and European countries.
The reopening in late June of the air route between Seoul’s Gimpo Airport and Haneda Airport that serves Tokyo is expected to further increase international flight demand this month. However expensive flight tickets could hold back travellers, according to watchers. With budget carriers yet to fully resume flight operations and high fuel surcharges on international routes, a direct round-trip flight ticket to a Southeast Asian destination can cost more than 800,000 won (US$616/£518) which is about 80% more expensive than in pre-pandemic times. Korean Air also started imposing record fuel surcharges on international routes this month, amid rising jet fuel prices.