(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Competition between Asia s low-cost airlines is expected to rise this year as carriers from Japan and China are lining up to launch new routes to Seoul, seeking to gain an upper hand in one of the world s fastest growing aviation markets, Korean media reported.
More and more budget-conscious tourists are willing to surrender some comfort in return for lower fares. The number of Koreans using low-cost airlines topped 10 million for the first time last year, up a staggering 32.5% from 2010, according to the Korean Transport Ministry.
"It doesn t have much impact on big players at this point because they fully dominate lucrative North American and European routes. But in the long term, budget carriers will bite into their stakes," forecasts analyst Joo Ik-chan at Eugene Investment & Securities.
The combined market share of the country s five low-cost airlines ? Jeju Air, Air Busan, Jin Air, Eastar Jet and T way Air ? rose to 16.5% last year, up 3.3 percentage points. The five together control more than 41% of domestic traffic.
This will bring new challenges to Korea s two full-service airlines, which are already being pummeled by volatile fuel prices, lower cargo demand and a weaker local currency. Though they own or hold stakes in budget carriers, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines will inevitably see their slices shrivel in the aviation market, experts say.
The carriers operate 25 international itineraries. More than 1.8 million Koreans flew overseas with them last year, doubling their collective market share to 4.3%.