China-South Korea flights increase
Negotiations between airlines and local governments underway
Published: Jul 09, 2020 06:38 PM

Passenger flights on the tarmac at Kunming Changshui International Airport, Yunnan Province Photo: VCG

Flights between China and South Korea are on track toward further resumption as both countries have brought the coronavirus largely under control. 

Air Busan, the budget carrier owned by Asiana Airlines Inc., said on Thursday that it will resume China flights next week upon quarantine approval from China.

Air Busan plans to offer one flight every Friday on the Incheon-Shenzhen route from July 17, the company said in a statement, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

The company is aiming to increase the number of flights on the route to Shenzhen depending on the Chinese authorities' guidance, according to the statement. And it aims to restart services on the Incheon-Ningbo route in August.

Air Busan has suspended all international routes since March 9 as countries closed their borders or imposed entry restrictions on incoming passengers amid coronavirus fears.

Asiana Airlines confirmed with the Global Times that it will also restart services on the Incheon-Nanjing route, operating one flight per week from Sunday. The carrier has been operating one flight per week on the Incheon-Changchun route.

An insider at Korean Air told the Global Times on Thursday that the airline is negotiating with local Chinese governments and China's civil aviation regulator, hoping to obtain confirmation letters from local governments and resume more China-South Korea routes as soon as possible. 

"The results will come out in one or two days," he said. 

Data sent to the Global Times by industry information provider VariFlight showed that from June 1 to July 7, a total of 10 airlines - seven of them Chinese - flew one weekly flight between China and South Korea. 

Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Jeju Air fly one weekly flight from Incheon to cities including Shenyang, Changchun and Weihai. The seven Chinese carriers included Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, and each operated one weekly flight from cities including Qingdao, Shenyang and Xiamen.  

Insiders said Chinese airlines have been permitted to add three weekly flights between the two countries, and South Korean carriers can add seven, which could double the total number of flights between China and South Korea. 

Asiana Airlines said on its WeChat account on Thursday that it will operate weekly flights from Incheon to both Changchun and Nanjing in July and August, starting next week.

If it goes smooth, the Seoul-based Asiana Airlines will be the first that is allowed to add a new flight route from Nanjing to Seoul with permission from local authorities between China and South Korea.

Asiana Airlines follows foreign carriers Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa and United Airlines in receiving permission to operate two flights in and two flights out of China every week, breaking the "Five One" policy.

Chinese regulators introduced the "Five One" policy at the end of March, limiting all domestic airlines to one international flight to one country per week, and allowing foreign airlines to fly into China no more than once per week. 

But in June, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced new criteria for countries permitted flights to and from China. Countries that have close economic ties with China, countries that have effective anti-coronavirus capabilities, countries with an urgent need to send personnel to resume work in China or countries that have already established "green channels" for business travel to China, and countries with high numbers of stranded Chinese nationals are now permitted to facilitate flights to and from China.

As early as May, the CAAC allowed domestic and foreign passenger airlines to apply for "green channels" for chartered flights to airports in the Chinese mainland. Eight countries have successfully applied: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.