Low-cost carriers fueling growth of South Korean tourism to PHL

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LOW-COST carriers (LCC) are fuelling the growth of traffic between the Philippines and South Korea, accounting for 40% of the capacity linking the two countries, an aviation think tank said.

“LCCs have accounted for most of the growth in the market over the past seven years. During peak periods there are now nearly 30,000 weekly one-way LCC seats from the Philippines to South Korea. Seven years ago, there were less than 13,000 weekly one-way seats during the peak season,” the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said in a recent report.

CAPA noted the Philippines-South Korea route is served by five out of the six South Korean LCCs, namely Jin Air, Jeju Air, Air Busan, Air Seoul and T’way Air, and both Philippine LCCs Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines.

Jin Air, Jeju Air and AirAsia Philippines each have almost 10% of the total capacity.

Jin Air, a subsidiary of Korean Air, increased the capacity of its one-way weekly flights to more than 7,500 seats during peak seasons from less than 1,000 in 2011.

Jeju Air did the same, expanding its one-way weekly seating capacity to more than 5,000 from only 1,300 seven years ago.

AirAsia Philippines also maintains up to 6,300 seats for its one-way weekly flights plying the route, larger than the average 2,000 to 4,500 one-way seats weekly that its predecessor Zest Airways used to have seven years ago.

Cebu Pacific offers around 5,600 one-way seats weekly during peak seasons, and 4,300 seats on off-peak seasons.

CAPA noted that although full service carriers like Philippines Airlines (PAL) are growing the Philippine-Korea route, LCCs still lead the market growth.

“Full service airline capacity has also expanded, but not as rapidly as LCC capacity,” it said. “Of the FSC competitors, PAL has expanded the fastest, broadly doubling capacity over the past seven years.”

The report said South Korean tourists in the Philippines have surged three times over the past eight years, taking up 24.3% share or more than 1.6 million visitors last year.

“Philippines-South Korea is mainly an inbound market. In 2017 there were less than 450,000 Filipino visitors to South Korea, compared to more than 1.6 million South Korean visitors to the Philippines,” it added.

CAPA said while inbound tourism has been affected this year because of the six-month closure of Boracay — tallying only a 1% increase in the past seven months — peak travel period is usually towards the end of the year.

“Philippines-South Korea is a highly seasonal market. The peak period for travel is late December to March,” it said.

A total of 11 routes between the Philippines and South Korea are currently operational, led by the Manila-Seoul route with 19,072 weekly seats. — Denise A. Valdez