South Korean authorities have revealed a three-phase plan to restore 50% of international flights by the end of 2022, and fully reinstate international services to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2023.
The plan, which is set to commence in May 2022, revises an initial projection of restoring international flight operations to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
South Korea’s Pulse News reported that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT) unveiled the plan on April 6, 2022.
The three phases are set to take place in 2022, based on the expectation that the pandemic will become endemic by the latter half of this year.
The ministry is currently focused on restoring 50% of the international flight services recorded in 2019 by the end of 2022 by focusing on “where passenger demand is expected to recover quickly”.
Compared to 4,770 international flights per week in 2019, Korea now serves less than 10% of that capacity with 420 international flights per week. South Korea’s largest airport, Incheon International Airport, currently averages fewer than 10 flights per hour, against 40 flights per hour recorded in 2019.
During the first phase, the ministry aims to increase the number of weekly international flights to 520 in May 2022, and 620 in June 2022. This will focus on countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Europe and the USA. Further measures will be applied to increase the number of international flight arrivals from 10 flights per hour to 20 flights per hour and to extend the permit period for non-scheduled flight operations from one to two weeks, local media reports.
In addition, scheduled flights will no longer require authorization from the country’s public health authority.
Phase two will begin in July 2020, with plans to increase weekly flight services by 300 every month, with 2720 weekly international flight services expected by December 2022.
International flight service arrivals per hour at Incheon International Airport will be raised to 30 and the permit period for non-scheduled flights will be extended to four weeks.
Phase three will commence in October 2022 on the basis that COVID-19 would become an endemic by that time. If all goes to plan, hourly arrival at Incheon international Airport will be reinstated at the normal level of 40 flights and international flight operations will be restored to 40% of 2019 levels by October 2022 and 51% by November 2022.