The number of Koreans using low-cost airlines surpassed 10 million for the first time last year as more people take advantage of affordable air travel at home and abroad.
The figure reflects a 32.5 percent on-year surge, according to the Transport Ministry. Combined market share of the country’s five budget carriers — Jeju Air, Air Busan, Jin Air, Eastar Jet and T’way Air — jumped to 16.5 percent, up by 3.3 percent.
In stark contrast, the number of air travelers rose merely 4.8 percent during the period to about 49.1 million. That includes those flying with Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, the two national flag carriers.
The data underscores the fledgling companies’ growing slice of the aviation pie on the back of robust demand for easier, cheaper air travel, which was once deemed a costly luxury.
They offer one-way tickets from Seoul and Jeju for as low as 19,000 won (US$16.8) during off-peak times, nearly a third of regular price tags. During the busy season, however, prices go up to around 80,000 won.
In the domestic market, the five firms together boasted a 41.4 percent share last year. They control more than 50 percent in three routes — Gimpo-Jeju, Gimhae-Jeju and Gunsan-Jeju.
To hedge against skyrocketing fuel prices and revenue shortfall, the no-frills carriers are increasingly steering overseas now via 25 international flights. More than 1.8 million people flew abroad with them last year, doubling their collective stake on-year to 4.3 percent in that segment.