South Korea's Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs stated it is upgrading the security alert at Incheon, Gimpo, Gimhae, Cheongju and Jeju airports to the highest level this week to ensure safety during the G-20 Seoul summit (chosun, 08-Nov-2010). The red alert, the highest on the colour-coded scale, means 50% of passengers are screened by hand and 50% of carry-on luggage is opened and searched. It is the first time the alert has been raised for the country's major airports.
South Korea declares highest security alert
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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.
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.