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(LEAD) T'way Air to start flights to Wuhan, first in 8 months since virus outbreak

All News 11:01 September 15, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS Chinese routes in paras 9-10)

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- T'way Air, a South Korean low-cost carrier, will begin flights to the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday, marking the reopening of the air service to the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak after eight months, the transport ministry said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport approved T'way Air's once-a-week flight on the Incheon-Wuhan route, which was already approved by the Chinese authorities late last year.

"We are planning to operate the Wuhan route until Oct. 24 for the summer season. For the winter season from late October through end-March, we will seek approval from Seoul and Beijing's authorities," a T'way Air spokesman said over the phone.

This photo taken July 28, 2020, shows a T'way Air plane at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

This photo taken July 28, 2020, shows a T'way Air plane at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

T'way Air was originally scheduled to begin services on the Wuhan route on Jan. 21, but the outbreak of the deadly respiratory illness temporarily suspended the plan.

T'way resumed flights to Yanji on Aug. 20 to meet business demand, while operating a sharply reduced number of flights on domestic routes since March.

Local airlines suspended all of their outbound flights to Wuhan on Jan. 23, two days after the first case of the COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed in South Korea.

Korean Air Lines Co. and China Southern Airlines were offering four flights a week on the Incheon-Wuhan route until Jan. 22.

With the addition of T'way's Wuhan route, a total of 10 routes to China will be available from Wednesday, the ministry said.

Currently, Korean Air offers once-a-week flights on routes from Incheon to Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenyang. Asiana Airlines Inc. provides once-a-week flights on routes from Incheon to Changchun, Nanjing and Cheungdu.

Among low-cost carriers, Jeju Air Co. and Jin Air Co. serve the Incheon-Weihai and the Jeju-Xian routes.

The number of flights to China plunged to 21 a week in the fifth week of August from 1,164 during the winter season of 2019, with the number of routes down to 16 from 84 during the same period, it said.

South Korea has two full-service carriers -- Korean Air and Asiana Airlines -- and seven budget carriers -- Jeju Air, Jin Air, Air Busan Co., Air Seoul Inc., Eastar Jet, T'way Air and Fly Gangwon.


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