International passenger traffic in and out of Korea reached an all-time high in the first quarter as air travel demand picked up during national and school holidays, a government report showed Sunday.
The number of passengers on overseas routes shot up 12.3 percent in the first three months to nearly 11.4 million, setting a fresh record, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.
Domestic air passenger traffic also leapt 11.6 percent year-on-year to more than 4.9 million during the three-month period, the ministry said.
Air cargo handling slid almost 2 percent during the same period to 857,000 tons due largely to sagging exports amid a global economic slowdown.
“The robust results were powered by increased overseas trips during students’ winter and spring breaks and Korean and Chinese national holidays, as well as rebounding demand for routes to Japan,” the ministry said in a statement.
Notably, the number of travelers to and from Southeast Asia and Oceania jumped around 20 percent in that quarter from a year ago, the report said. The figure for Europe and Japan rose 14 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
Korea’s five low-cost carriers also continue to take market share from flagship carriers.
In the first quarter, more than 2.1 million people flew with them on domestic flights, reflecting a 17.4 percent rise from a year before. Their collective stake in international routes grew 2.6 percentage points to 6.3 percent during the period.
As for the second quarter, the ministry forecast an upward trend for passenger traffic, citing a recent increase in the number of routes to Jeju, the country’s southernmost resort island, and the kickoff of the Yeosu Expo in May.
However, sky-high fuel prices, coupled with currency volatility, will remain variables and may cause cargo demand to further deteriorate, the ministry added.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)