South Korean air carriers saw the number of international passengers’ spike 16-fold in the first quarter from a year earlier, driven by a surge in demand amid border reopenings, government data showed Sunday.The number of passengers that used international flights operated by Korean Air Lines Co., Asiana Airlines Inc. and low-cost carriers came to 9.87 million in the January-March period, according to the data by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
That marks a massive increase from the 619,204 logged in the first quarter of 2022, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The number of international passengers that used full-service airlines, like Korean Air and Asiana, grew 7.8 times on-year to 4.47 million in the first three months of the year, accounting for 45 per cent of total international passengers.
The number of those that flew on budget carriers, representing 5.41 million, skyrocketed from 52,000 a year ago, outrunning the number for full-service airlines. Recovery in international travel demand boosted the sharp increase in the passenger numbers, as countries began to ease Covid-19-related border restrictions, market watchers said.
In particular, Japan, Taiwan and Macao resumed no-visa entry programs for South Korean tourists in the fourth quarter of last year, bolstering the demand for Asia-bound flights, the majority of which are dominated by low-cost carriers.Analysts forecast the strong demand will lead to record high profits for budget carriers, including T’way Air Co. and Jin Air Co., in the first quarter.
Korean Air and Asiana, on the other hand, are expected to post weaker profits in the first quarter, as cargo demand has been sharply shrinking amid the recovery in demand for passenger flights, according to analysts.