Jeju Air Co., a South Korean budget carrier, said Wednesday it will open a route to Taiwan's Kaohsiung next month, the first such service offered by a local airline.
The move is part of local budget carriers' efforts to expand routes to Southeast Asia and Japan not only to absorb growing low-budget travel demand but also to offset sharp declines in travel demand from China amid a diplomatic row over the deployment of a US anti-missile system in Korea.
Beijing banned the sale of travel packages to South Korea starting March 15 in protest against Seoul's deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
It has argued the X-band radar system that comes with THAAD could spy on its military though Seoul and Washington have said the system is purely aimed at countering North Korea's missile threats.
Jeju Air said it will start operating the Incheon-Kaohsiung route Tuesdays and Fridays on July 4.
In 2016, the country's six budget carriers -- Jin Air, Jeju Air, Air Busan Co., Air Seoul Inc., Eastar Jet and T'way Air Co. -- transported 56.8 percent of the passengers on domestic routes and 19.6 percent of the passengers traveling abroad. The figures were up from 54.6 percent and 14.6 percent a year earlier, respectively, according to the transport ministry.
Last year, passengers on domestic routes jumped 11 percent on-year to 30.91 million and passengers on international routes climbed 19 percent to 73 million, the ministry said. (Yonhap)