South Korea's top full-service air carriers have raked in massive profits from hiking fares on their routes to North America despite saving fuel costs via their polar routes, industry data showed Tuesday.
Korean Air Lines Co., the No. 1 industry player, saved some 30 billion won (US$28 million) in oil costs after receiving permission to use polar routes through the first half of this year since 2006, according to the data by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport submitted to the parliament.
Asiana Airlines Inc. saved 8 billion won since 2009 by making use of its polar routes. The routes refer to airways in the Arctic region, which allow planes to save time and thus cut costs.
Korean Air Lines uses the routes for flights connecting Incheon, west of Seoul, to Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Toronto, which are operated 2,000 times annually combined. Asiana also uses the routes to connect Incheon with New York and Chicago, the data showed.
Korean Air Lines, however, raised its Incheon-New York flight fee by 15.6 percent on average in 2010 compared to 2006, and Asiana also revised up its comparable ticket prices by 5.35 percent in 2010 from a year earlier.
"As the air carriers saved on operating costs from using the polar routes under the government's approval, they must return some part of the extra benefits to passengers," said Rep. Chung Woo-taek of the ruling Saenuri Party.