Korean Air is expanding its flight services to Japan, including to regional airports, in response to a surge in demand for leisure travel between South Korea and its eastern neighbour.
South Korean visitors to Japan totalled 569,100, or 26.4 per cent of all visitors in August, up from 308,730 (12.3 per cent of all visitors) in the same month in 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Meanwhile, Japanese tourists represented the largest portion of inbound tourists to South Korea between January and May 2023, with 665,611 arrivals equating to 19.2 per cent of all international visitors, according to the Korea Tourism Organization.
Seoul even pipped perennial top performer Honolulu to become the most popular choice for Japanese tourists’ travel packages between July 21 and August 31, according to Japanese travel agent HIS.
Korean Air is expanding its operations for the winter season (October 29 to March 30) to meet this “resurgent travel demand”, said the company, adding that its seat capacity reached approximately 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in September and is expected to recover to over 90 per cent with the launch of the new schedule.
Flights to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport to Osaka and Fukuoka will be increased to four daily from three. Narita will also enjoy four flights daily, up from two. The Nagoya route will operate 17 times a week, up from 14, until December 27.
The airline will also resume service from Seoul to Kagoshima, Okayama and Niigata, with three round-trip flights a week.
A statement from Korean Air said that “the resumption will offer schedule diversity and options for those that wish to explore the many unique destinations that smaller Japanese cities have to offer”.
Capacities on routes to Japan (and China) have been the slowest to recover for Korean Air, but demand in these markets has been picking up enough to warrant the increase in services, opined the Centre for Aviation.