By Zsarlene B. Chua

SOUTH KOREA’s Incheon Airport and flag carrier, Asiana Airlines, have announced “special transit tour packages” for transit passengers who choose Korea (and Asiana Airlines) as stopover on their way to their ultimate destination.

Called “Stop and Joy in Seoul,” the promotion will include a “premium transit tour” for $50 per person which includes round trip airport limousines bus services, overnight hotel stays in select hotels, and a pass to the airport’s Martina lounge.

Transit tour

Alex (S. Y.) Lee, director of the airline marketing group of Incheon airport, told the media at the promotion’s launch in New World Makati Hotel last month that this is the first time the airline has focused specifically on transit passengers, and that it was done to encourage more transit passengers to pass through the airport.

Incheon Airport welcomed 10.1% more passengers from the Philippines in 2015 compared to 2014. Of the 2.9 million passengers from the Philippines, 1.4 million came from Manila while the rest came from other international airports in the country, with 382,000 being transit passengers on their way to other destinations. Mr. Lee noted that 73% of these transit passengers were headed to the US, with Los Angeles being the top destination, followed by New York City and Seattle.

The airport services a total of 44 million passengers a year, spread throughout 410,000 flights. Of the 44 million, 7.4 million are transit passengers, Mr. Lee said.

An airport expansion program, which includes the opening of a second passenger terminal, is set to finish by 2017, increasing the airport’s total passenger carrying capacity to 62 million.

The premium transit service includes an overnight hotel stay (and shuttle to and from airport), a free pass to the airport’s Martina Lounge, and discount cards can be bought for $ 50. Visitors can also add (for a fee) a day tour to visit sites like the Gyeongbokgung Place and the Namsan Tower, or a tour that would take them to the traditional markets of Seoul. These are aside from the short free tours (one- to five-hour tours) that Incheon Airport already regularly offers for transit passengers who have to wait more than five hours for their connecting flight to their final destination. Note that while these tours are free, admission tickets to the sites will be shouldered by the passenger.

“[We have invested] quite a lot on the free tours,” Mr. Lee said, though he demured from revealing how much the airport has put in for the program.

Transit passengers with visas to the US, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand can avail of the free tours without applying for a Korean visa, so long as they have a confirmed onward departure ticket.

Those who opt not to leave the airport while waiting for their connecting flight can instead visit the Korea Cultural Experience center for an overview of South Korean traditional arts and crafts, or take part in some of the “7,400 cultural events held annually across the terminal including classical concerts, K-Pop music events and even historical performances.”