South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs reports South Korean LCCs had a domestic market share of 34.2% for the three months ended Mar-2010 (Yonhap News, 16-May-2010). The Ministry stated it is the highest level since the first LCC commenced domestic services in 2005.
South Korean LCC market share reaches 34.2% in 1Q2010
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Korean LCC t'way grows Daegu base, seeking expansion outside congested Seoul, Busan and Jeju
After several years of uncertainty, the Korean LCC t'way appears to be settling in for the medium term. T'way was Korea's smallest LCC until the mid-2016 launch of Air Seoul. A few initiatives indicate t'way is planning more strategically, and for the future, suggesting greater confidence. Bulking up, diversifying and creating new growth areas could help the airline with its plan to IPO in two years.
T'way is expanding its Daegu base in southern Korea. The LCC missed the big growth out of Korea's major cities when its positioning was fragile. With Seoul and Jeju facing capacity constraints Korea's LCCs turned to Busan, but now Busan is also constrained. T'way's expansion in Daegu is 83km from Busan.
Daegu is Korea's third largest population area, potentially making it good for outbound, with inbound more of a challenge to market but not impossible. Regional Korean airports, like their Japanese peers, will increasingly try to attract foreign airlines. T'way plans to add 737-900s, which can be used to upgauge or reach further into Southeast Asia, which Korean LCCs have only partially penetrated.
Air Seoul launches to support its parent, Asiana. Korea's seventh LCC, Nambu Air, plans start-up
Asiana Airlines has joined All Nippon Airways in having two LCCs: Asiana's Air Seoul launched in the Korean domestic market on 11-Jul-2016 and will expand to international markets in Oct-2016. Air Seoul gives Asiana access to the Seoul market via an LCC under 100% ownership, whereas its first LCC, Air Busan, is mostly focused on the Busan market and Asiana is only one investor. Asiana is transferring slots to Air Seoul at Jeju airport, which is capacity constrained.
Asiana must make up for the lost time when it was largely absent from the Seoul LCC market, which is becoming dominated by Jeju Air, Jin Air and foreign LCCs. Yet Air Seoul's agenda is not ambitious – starting by taking over monopoly Asiana routes to secondary Japanese cities. Such a cautious "hand-me-down" route strategy may improve finances but prevent Air Seoul from establishing a necessary presence in more major markets. It is also unclear whether Asiana's secondary short haul international routes, with which it has struggled over a few years, can even be profitable on an LCC platform. It may be early days for Air Seoul, but it is flying A321s in a very low density 171-seat configuration.
Meanwhile, a seventh LCC – Nambu Air – has been proposed by South Gyeongsang Province, which lost a bid to construct a new airport for southeastern Korea, including the second largest city Busan.