02 August 2008

soko's wacky budget airline bonanza

jin air, a subsidiary of korean air, is one of korea's most promising new budget airlines, but i can't handle the turned hats.

back in september of 2006, i booked a $19 (+tax) roundtrip ticket on malaysia's air asia. the prospect of being airborne for so little was intriguing. sure, i was flying from kuala lumpur to the very unpopular destination of kota bharu (local slogan: the islamic city!), but c'mon, $19?

i was struck by how inexpensively one can fly in southeast asia... especially when originating out of KL or bangkok. this just ain't the case in pricey northeast asia, where 2-hour trips between seoul and tokyo still run $600+ this time of year.

a glut of budget airlines is coming to korea. an asterisk means future projections.

but 2008 promises to fill korea's air with a glut of new budget carriers. a total of 5 new airlines are launching this year, with two already in operation. last week, the busan-based yeongnam air launched its inaugural flight between seoul's gimpo (mostly domestic) international airport and the lovely jeju island. by the end of the year, they plan to service four domestic routes that concentrate on yeongnam, which is korea's southeastern region. in fact, bonafide yeongnam residents receive a 5-10% discount... which is kinda weird.

a week prior, jin air, the budget arm of tiffany-blue korean air, had their own maiden voyage on a 189-seat boeing 737-800. jin is so easy breezy cool that their flight attendants, called "jinis" (yes, from the lamp) wear t-shirts and jeans and their check-in counter features a dj. although initial plans were to call the airline air korea, they switched to "jin," whose chinese character can mean "true" or "genuine", or, it can sound like how koreans pronounce "jeans", which is appropriate since they wear them. which came first, the outfits or the name? regardless, what's even better is their slogan: "fly, better fly - jin air." oh, wait... their logo looks like a butterfly... which sounds a lot like "better fly". clever! painful! starting late next year, jin plans to fly to japan as well as to china and southeast asian destinations.

sure hansung airlines has had some safety issues, but i'm liking the professionalism. can you imagine how bad it would look if jin air's nickelodeon rugrats get associated with some kind of (god forbid) mishap?

hansung airlines is korea's oldest budget carrier (inaugural flight in 2005). the cheongju-based airline has offered the popular seoul (gimpo) to jeju route at half the typical $200+ cost of the major airlines. although hansung experienced early popularity, it suspended service for a coupla months in 2005-06 to search for additional funding. adding literal injuries to that insult was an accident in november 2006 that broke off their plane's nose and caused six minor cuts and bruises.

i think that's a kitty kat peace sign.

i wish every pilot had a rose, a gun, and kitty paws. thanks chang-bin!

if safety concerns has you second-guessing hansung, please don't. who else's website has a "cabin interview" feature that tells you your flight attendant's hobbies and blood type. for example, now i know that yea-ji shon really likes balloons and that chang-bin lee likes to pretend he's holding a gun while wearing his pilot's uniform. safety!

not to be left out, korea's other major carrier, asiana airlines, will also launch a subsidiary airline this fall. air busan, as it will be called, will start operations in october. two other low-cost carriers are also planned before year's end. in november, eastar jet is scheduled to start service, with incheon-tiger (co-owned by the city of incheon and singapore airlines) to kick off in december, eventually hoping to serve japan, china, mongolia and the russian far east. a few others, like purple jet, daeyang air, pocheon air, kostar airlines and seoul airlines have all been knocked about though it's unclear which (if any) will materialize. good lawd. how about some consolidation already.

the seagull looks very stuffed.

korean aviation restrictions require new carriers to have at least 2 years of domestic test-runs before going international. the new companies are eager to go abroad since that's where the real profits lie. jeju air, which has operated since 2006, already qualifies and offers service to three japanese cities (unfortunately, tokyo ain't one of them).

let's hope some of them get to run some int'l flights before high oil prices push them under!


Jonith said...

the guy on the left in the three-person pic (teal ties) is totally hot.

re: segregation -- seatown friends post comments and seoultown friends post comments. but never (rarely) mixed.

matt said...

ya, i thought him handsome, too. so you mean it seems that sea- and seo- folk respond to different things? i just think you and bdkymen like the campy or poop-related posts best. xo