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Asiana to reopen 13 int'l routes in June as virus woes ease

All News 13:58 May 14, 2020

By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, May 14 (Yonhap) -- Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's second-biggest carrier, said Thursday it will resume flights on 13 international routes next month as the coronavirus outbreak seems to have passed its peak.

The move comes on the heels of its bigger local rival Korean Air's similar plan.

Asiana plans to restart flight services on 13 international routes -- one to Seattle and 12 to Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai -- from June 1, while increasing the number of flights on six other routes to cities like Frankfurt, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the company said in a statement.

"The decision is aimed at meeting business travel demand though leisure travel demand has yet to recover amid the virus fears," a company spokesman said.

This file photo, taken April 9, 2020, shows Asiana Airlines Inc. planes grounded at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The move will help raise Asiana's flight utilization rate to 17 percent in June from 8 percent a month earlier, the statement said.

Asiana offered flight services to 64 cities in 21 countries through 75 international routes as of Jan. 1.

Asiana and other local airlines have suspended most of their international routes since March, as an increasing number of countries have strengthened entry restrictions on incoming passengers amid virus fears.

In its self-rescue measures, Asiana had all of its 10,500 employees begin taking unpaid leave for 15 days a month in April until business circumstances normalize. Asiana's executives have also agreed to forgo 60 percent of their wages, though no specific time frame was given for how long the pay cuts will remain in effect.

To help Asiana stay afloat, the country's two state lenders -- the Korea Development Bank (KDB) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank) -- plan to inject a combined 1.7 trillion won into the cash-strapped carrier.

Its bigger rival Korean Air also plans to resume flights on 19 international routes next month as it strives to offset a sharp decline in passenger travel demand with an increased demand for cargo deliveries.

Korean Air said the resumption is aimed at preparing for increased travel demand after countries ease their entry restrictions on incoming passengers to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its reopening routes include Washington, D.C., Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Frankfurt, Singapore, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur.

The KDB and Eximbank plan to extend 1.2 trillion won in financial aid to the country's biggest and national flag carrier.

Korean Air and Asiana are set to release their first-quarter earnings results Friday.

Korean Air's net losses widened to 624.87 billion won (US$529 million) last year from 185.65 billion won a year earlier due to a weak won and lower demand. Asiana's net losses widened to 672.6 billion won from 96.2 billion won during the same period.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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