Air Busan launched Busan-Narita service on 23-Jun-2011 with a load factor of 99% (All Nikkan Koku, 24-Jun-2011). There were 193 passengers on the Busan-Narita sector and 194 passengers on the return sector, making it a full flight. Narita is the third point in Japan for Air Busan, which already operates to Fukuoka and Kansai.
Air Busan launches Busan-Narita service with 99% load factor
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Korean LCCs: fleet surpasses 100 aircraft but market faces growth constraints; China the latest
Korea's LCC sector ended 2016 with 103 aircraft – the first time the collective fleet had crossed the 100 mark for what, until recently, was Northeast Asia's most dynamic market. Korea has six LCCs, with Jeju Air regaining a strong lead as the largest LCC. Half of Korea's LCC fleet has been added in the last three years. It is Northeast Asia's largest LCC market after China and, surprisingly, well ahead of Japan.
But overall Northeast Asia's LCC sector is pale in comparison to Southeast Asia, whose LCCs operate 74% more aircraft. Lion Air alone has more aircraft than all of Korea, while the AirAsia Group has more than all of China. Only three of East Asia's ten largest LCCs are in Northeast Asia.
And it is unclear how much further Korea's LCCs can grow in the short term. They have mostly flown domestically, and slots are now constrained. International opportunities are also challenging, and further complicated by the Jan-2017 decision of China to reject charter applications during the popular – and very profitable – Chinese New Year. Korea's LCCs needed liberalisation, not antagonism.
Jeju Air is Northeast Asia's largest LCC outside China; opening a Busan base to continue growth
Jeju Air continues to hold its place as Korea's largest LCC, and the largest LCC in Northeast Asia outside mainland China. Although service to its namesake island of Jeju continues to define its domestic network, internationally Jeju Air has long been expanding outside the geography of its brand. Seoul has been Jeju Air's main focus, and in 2016 Jeju Air is building up in Busan. Jeju Air CEO Ken Choi remarked at CAPA's Asia Aviation Summit that Jeju Air is targeting 20% of Korea's second largest city, which the airline believes is not being well served by Asiana's LCC Air Busan. Early moves are critical: Busan is running out of slots.
Jeju Air has an all-737 fleet of 25 aircraft and expects to add two more around the end of 2016. In 2017 Jeju Air will adopt the technology for the Value Alliance of which it is a member. Mr Choi hopes to see the alliance expand in mainland China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Consolidation among Korean LCCs is still as necessary as it is unlikely. Open skies with China is another contentious matter for Korea, with full service airlines opposed to it, whereas LCCs support the development.