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Virus-hit aviation sector to get more support in S. Korea

A Korean Air B787-9 passenger jet (Yonhap) Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

SEOUL, Mar 18, 2020, Yonhap. South Korea said Wednesday it will delay reclaiming traffic rights and allocated slots from airlines, while cutting landing fees and other charges, amid the escalating coronavirus impact on the aviation sector, Yonhap reported.

Airlines have suspended most of their flights on international routes this month as people opt not to travel and more than 150 countries and territories impose entry restrictions on passengers from South Korea out of concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

The transportation ministry said it will not reclaim the traffic rights that are not used by airlines this year due to the virus-caused flight suspensions as well as their slots allocated for aircraft to arrive and depart.

“The moves are aimed at helping local airlines continue operations and weather the unprecedented difficulties,” Kim Sang-do in charge of aviation policies at the ministry said in a statement.

Airlines will be allowed to use the traffic rights and slots that are not used this year due to suspended flights next year, the statement said.

Under aviation laws, airlines are required to return their traffic rights if they are not used for more than 20 weeks in a given year and turn in slots if less than 80 percent of them are used.

The government has also taken steps to cut airport landing charges by 20 percent for two months from March and exempt airlines from parking charges for three months from this month.

Airlines can pay other airport-related usage fees for the March-May period later, the ministry said.

Under the government’s support measures, airlines and related businesses in airports will be exempted from airport usage charges worth a total of 65.6 billion won, and they can delay paying a combined 500.5 billion won worth of charges, it said.

Separately, the government announced last month it will inject 300 billion won into low-cost carriers (LCCs), which have grounded most of their planes and face snowballing losses. Forty billion won has been funneled into LCCs.

In response to the measures, airlines demanded the support programs be carried out as quickly as possible and called for a variety of tax breaks.

“Full-service carriers should be exempt from acquisition and property taxes for their planes as is the case with LCCs,” an airline official said.

The country has two full-service carriers — Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. — and seven low-cost carriers — Jeju Air Co., Jin Air, Air Busan, Air Seoul, Eastar Jet, T’way and Fly Gangwon.

South Korea reported a total of 8,413 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 84 related deaths as of Wednesday.

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