ON THE CHEAP: Discount airlines make travel from Korea a bargain

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ON THE CHEAP: Discount airlines make travel from Korea a bargain

by: David Hurwitz | .
Stripes Korea | .
published: September 26, 2012
So, you want to get away for a quick trip but dont' want to spend a lot of money and don't want to waste time waiting for Space A? Read on and you might find what you are looking for...
 
Compared to other Asian countries, international flights originating in Korea have been priced fairly reasonably. For decades, Korean Air Lines ruled the market. But with air industry deregulation on the rise, a slew of local low-cost carriers (LCCs) have entered the fray, saving passengers some serious coin on discount flights entering and leaving the peninsula.
What’s more, LCCs from abroad have also started to fly to Korea, giving U.S. military personnel and their families an even wider selection to choose from in terms of price, destination and schedule.
LCCs accounted for 7.2 percent of all seats in and out of Korea in January-March 2012, up from 0.2 percent in 2006, and that proportion is rising, according to CAPA – Centre for Aviation, a provider of information and analysis of the aviation market.
The knock-on effect is considerable, with inbound tourism to Korea increasing by 28% year on year in April 2012 as a result of the new seats, new routes, and low prices offered by the LCCs, a CAPA report said.
Some travelers are skeptical about the new airlines, concerned about the level of service they’ll receive in exchange for a cheaper fare.
Maria Kato, Pacific market coordinator for Stars and Stripes, recently flew to Okinawa from Tokyo for the equivalent of about six cents as part of a promotional campaign by AirAsia Japan.
“The leather seats were very comfortable. I sat next to the exit door, but they didn’t charge for the extra space. The plane was a new Airbus 3320, so there was a lot of room in the overhead compartments,” Kato said.
Though it’s doubtful she will ever fly to Okinawa for six cents again, Kato would be willing to pay the normal discount fare to fly AirAsia, saying, “It’s cheap, so if I want to go to Okinawa often, I would take (AirAsia)”.
This feeling was seconded by passengers who flew another LCC.
Ed Kelin, revenue manager for Stars and Stripes Pacific, turned to a discount carrier when his MILAIR flight from Okinawa to Tokyo was suddenly cancelled and he switched to Skymark Airlines.
“If you’ve flown Southwest Airlines, the experience is somewhat similar. Seats were comparable to any other airline I’ve flown, and the legroom was fine. You didn’t feel you were on a discount airline. I’d be happy to fly it again,” he said.
One of his traveling companions, Master Sgt. Brian Norton, 1st Sergeant, Stars and Stripes Pacific, was similarly enthusiastic. “It was a very normal experience. It was just like a normal flight. The seats were comparable to those found on any Japanese airline; the stewardesses were just as professional. I would fly them again.”
Lt. Col. Brian Porter, commander, Stars and Stripes Pacific, said, “Without a doubt I would fly them again. If you are tight for time, Skymark is a clean, comfortable alternative, and the price is right. Whether MILAIR cancels on me or I get bumped, it’s a great option in my pocket.”
Please note, however, that pricing on discount airlines sometimes varies according to the day of the week you travel, with Tuesday to Thursday often offering the cheapest fares. It may also depend on the season and how far in advance you book.
And in an era when even the established carriers charge extra for some services, almost everything is a la carte when flying some LCCs.
In this regard, passengers on Korean LCCs seem to have a leg up on those flying Japanese discount carriers, at least for the moment.
“Japan is distinguished by having its new LCC entrants fit the more conventional mold of a la carte pricing, whereas Korea’s LCCs still offer perks, as do Japan’s established discount carriers like Skymark,” according to CAPA. The organization, however, doubts they can continue to do so when “foreign stripped-down LCCs carve a larger presence in Korea.”
For the military community in Korea, deregulation here and in Japan has resulted in a range of inexpensive options that weren’t available before.
If you want to fly a Korean LCC to Japan, EastarJet goes to Tokyo and Osaka from Seoul, and Air Busan flies to both cities and to Fukuoka from Busan.
If Southeast Asia is where you want to go, AirAsia will take you from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where you can catch a ride to many other cities in the region on its extensive flight network. Both T’way Airlines and EastarJet will get you to Bangkok, Thailand, and EastarJet will also take you to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Air Busan, using Busan as its hub, flies to Cebu, Philippines, and Taipei, Taiwan, and also goes to Hong Kong, Macau and Qingdao, in China.
If a beach vacation in Guam is on your mind, Jin Air and Jeju Air both fly there, with Jeju Air offing special pricing during its inaugural flight period, selling tickets for only $399 for the entire month of October. 
Japanese LCCs expand your flight choice even further, with AirAsia Japan launching a Tokyo-Seoul and Tokyo-Busan route in late October and Peach Aviation connecting Seoul with Osaka. Once in Japan, their networks and those of Jetstar Japan and Skymark Airlines are open to you, including flights to Okinawa and other parts of mainland Japan.
If you want to leave the peninsula but cannot wait for or risk Space-A seating, Japan, China, Southeast Asia and Guam are not as far or as expensive to get to as you think. Join the growing trend toward flying discount airlines and find out why LCC is becoming the most popular acronym in the Asia Pacific region.
Discount Carriers at a Glance
KOREA
AirAsia
• Flies from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for connections to AirAsia destinations throughout Asia
• Tel: 1420-69940
• URL: booking.airasia.com/Search.aspx
Air Busan
• Flies from Busan, Korea, to Tokyo (Narita), Osaka (Kansai International) and Fukuoka, Japan; Hong Kong, Macau and Qingdao, China; Cebu, Philippines; and Taipei, Taiwan
• Tel: 1666-3060
• URL: www.airbusan.com/AB/airbusan/english/main.jsp?loc=en
EastarJet
• Flies from Seoul to Osaka (Kansai International Airport); Tokyo (Narita International Airport); Bangkok, Thailand; and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
• Tel: 1544-0080
• URL: www.eastarjet.com/book/index.htm
Jeju Air
• Flies from Seoul to Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong and Qingdao, China; and Guam
• Tel: 1599-1500
• URL: en.jejuair.net
Jin Air
• Flies from Seoul to Sapporo, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong and Macau, China; Vientiane, Laos; Clark and Cebu, Philippines; and Guam
• Also flies from Gimpo Airport near Seoul to Shanghai, China, and Taipei, Taiwan, through Jeju island in southern Korea.
• Tel: 1600-6200 / 3600-6000
• URL: www.jinair.com
T’way Airlines
• Flies from Seoul to Fukuoka, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; and Jeju island, Korea
• Tel: 1688-8686
• URL: www.twayair.com (not in English)
JAPAN
AirAsia Japan
• Starting late October, will launch flights from Tokyo (Narita International Airport) to Seoul and Busan, Korea
• Also flies from Tokyo (Narita) to Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa
• Tel: 0120-963-516 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Mon-Fri) 
• URL: www.airasia.com/jp/en/home.page
Peach Aviation
• Flies between Osaka (Kansai International Airport) and Seoul (Incheon)
• Also flies from Osaka to Kagoshima, Nagasaki and Sapporo, Japan, and  Hong Kong, China
• Starting Sept. 30 will fly from Osaka to Taipei, Taiwan, and from Oct. 18 will fly from Osaka to Okinawa
• Tel: 0570-064-731
• URL: www.flypeach.com/home.aspx
Skymark Airlines
• Flies from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Kobe, Sapporo and cities in Kyushu, and from Tokyo (Narita) to Sapporo and Asahikawa, Hokkaido, and cities in Kyushu
• Also flies from Tokyo (Haneda and Narita) to Okinawa
• Tel: 050-3116-7370 (Japanese only, 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily)
• URL: www.skymark.co.jp/en
Jetstar Japan
• Flies from Tokyo (Narita) to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Sapporo as well from Osaka to Fukuoka and Sapporo
• Flies daily between Tokyo (Narita) and Okinawa, and starting Oct. 28, will fly between Osaka and Okinawa
• Offers a best-price guarantee
• Tel: 0120-9347-87 (24 hours daily) 
• URL: www.jetstar.com/au/en/home
What is an LCC?
A low-cost carrier, or LCC, also known as a budget, discount or no-frills airline, generally offers low airfares in exchange for less comfort. To make up for the decreased income, most services are provided a la carte, with extra fees charged for checked luggage, securing a specific reserved seat, ordering a meal (on domestic flights), changing a reservation, and others.
In some, but not all, cases, LCCs tend to have fewer flight attendants and are more vulnerable to overbookings and delays. They also tend not to rebook passengers on other carriers or provide accommodations when a flight is canceled. The old maxim of “caveat emptor,” or “Let the buyer beware,” is the rule of the day.
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