As travel demand throughout Asia and the world has decreased due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), South Korea's government has announced plans to provide aid to airlines to help counter the negative effects on their businesses.
South Korea's transport ministry will offer loans worth KRW 300 Billion (US$250 million) through its state-owned Korea Development Bank, while allowing airport usage fees to be paid later.
To offset the weakened demand from areas hard hit by the outbreak, airlines will also be allowed to launch alternative routes and operate irregular flights depending on demand.
New agency Yonhap has reported nearly 80% of the flights between South Korea and China have been suspended or reduced over concerns with the outbreak.
Asiana Offers Staff Unpaid Leave
After posting heavy losses and facing a financial situation in 2019, Asiana Airlines is now dealing with the decreased travel demand by offering cabin crew an option to take unpaid leave through March. It comes as the Seoul-based airline has also reduced flights to China.
The airline recently was sold by the Kumho Asiana Group to a consortium led by the Hyundai Group, which included stakes in low cost carriers Air Seoul and Air Busan.
Asiana is the second major airline to announce such move after Cathay Pacific made a similar offer for their own cabin crew.
Thailand Travel Advisory
With an advisory to avoid travel to Thailand, airlines have begun announcing a decrease in services between South Korea and Thailand.
Among the airlines that have reduced their flights to Thailand from South Korea include Asiana, which suspended service from Incheon (Seoul) to Bangkok for Feb 18-March 9 and Incheon to Chiang Mai for March 3-15.
Korean Air confirmed suspension of services from Busan to Bangkok for Feb 23-March 22, but Incheon-Bangkok flights remain in place.
Jeju Air, a low-cost carrier, temporarily halted services from Bangkok to Incheon, Busan and Muan in February and March.