Amid fierce competition, South Korean low-cost carriers are seeking to attract more passengers by upgrading their in-flight services and diversifying routes.
They had previously focused on no-frills cheap flights without meals and entertainment.
But in early October, Air Seoul -- under the country’s No. 2 full-service carrier Asiana Airlines -- began offering in-flight movies, in a first for a low-cost carrier here. The LCC operates the Airbus 321-200, which has personal screens for each seat, unlike the Boeing 737-800 aircraft used by most budget airlines.
The in-flight movies are available to passengers flying medium-haul routes, such as to China, Southeast Asia and Guam. Comic or sports clips are offered on short-haul flights, such as those to Japanese cities.
Meanwhile, LCCs are also diversifying flights after the nationwide boycott of trips to Japan severely hit the domestic industry.
To replace Japanese destinations, budget airlines have added flights to China and Southeast Asian cities, such as popular holiday destinations in Vietnam like Danang and Phu Quoc.
In early October, Eastar Jet added two new Chinese routes. It now operates routes to Zhangjiajie, Haikou, Shenyang and Yanji, departing from provincial airports including Cheongju International Airport.
Jeju Air began its Busan-Muan route from mid-October. Since the boycott of travel to Japan, the air carrier has expanded its number of Chinese flights to 16 cities, including Beijing, Qingdao, Weihai and Yentai, from the previous 12.
T’way Air switched its irregular Daegu-Zhangjiajie route to a regular one from Oct. 13, securing a total of six routes to Chinese destinations.
Air Seoul has joined the move by opening the country’s first direct and regular Incheon-Zhangjiajie route.
“Unlike in the past, when LCCs mainly competed with lower ticket price deals, the rivalry now centers on differentiated in-flight services and other perks for passengers, such as establishing a passenger lounge at the departure terminal,” said an industry insider who works at a domestic LCC.
“Sales strategies will continue to shift toward offering premium and luxury services for consumers,” he added.
In June, Jeju Air opened the JJ Lounge on the fourth floor of Incheon Airport, the first attempt by an LCC to operate an exclusive area for its passengers at the airport.
By Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)