The Korea Herald


No. of passengers on ‘flights to nowhere’ close to 16,000-mark

By Jie Ye-eun

Published : June 14, 2021 - 16:31

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People prepare to board on international sightseeing flights without landing at Incheon Airport’s Terminal 1. (Yonhap) People prepare to board on international sightseeing flights without landing at Incheon Airport’s Terminal 1. (Yonhap)
Nearly 16,000 people have enjoyed international “flights to nowhere” offered by South Korean airlines to boost revenue during the prolonged pandemic last year, the customs office said Monday.

A total of 15,983 passengers boarded 152 international sightseeing flights between December last year and May this year, according to data compiled by the Korea Customs Service. The planes, which took off from Korea, entered airspace above other countries without stopping at any overseas destinations, before returning to land in Korea.

Seven local airlines, including top carriers Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines, have offered the special flights. The government had allowed them to temporarily operate the flights for 12 months in an effort to shore up the pandemic-hit aviation and duty-free industries.

Low-cost carrier Air Busan operated 35 flights to nowhere, the most among all airlines, followed by Jeju Air and Jin Air with 34 and 33, respectively.

The average occupancy rate on the special flights came to 73.5 percent over the cited period, more than three times higher than the average rate for regular international flights recorded as of March, the data showed.

Passengers who went on the sightseeing flights purchased duty-free products worth 22.8 billion won ($20.40 million) in the past six months. The average amount spent per person on duty-free goods stood at about 1.42 million won, the customs office said.

Cosmetic items were the most sought after, with sales amounting to 6.1 billion won. Bags came next with purchases totaling 4 billion won, followed by perfumes at 2.5 billion won.

Customs data showed 7,266 passengers bought duty-free goods above the allowance limit of $600 per person. Among them, 7,244 people declared them voluntarily and received a total of 466 million won in tax deductions.

“Through a continuous cooperation with related institutions, we’ll actively support the airline and duty-free industries to overcome the slump by providing international sightseeing flights under the program with quick customs clearance in the latter half of this year as well,” a KCS official said. 

By Jie Ye-eun (