News that Asiana Airlines and Korean Air have been accused operating their Seoul Incheon lounges illegally for more than ten years appeared in Japanese media. The articles state that both of the airlines were accused of having violated laws by not having restaurant licenses.
It seems as though based on the Korean law, they are required to have those licenses as they offer access not only to their business and first class passengers, but also to economy class passengers for cash (and miles) and to Priority Pass members (for which Priority Pass pays them cash).
Apparently, the issue was brought to the police by a group of restaurant and independent lounge operators at the airport. Both of the airlines stated that they will consider their future options – whether it be obtaining the required licenses or terminating sales of lounge access.
In either case, it will be interesting to see how this case develops given that two Asiana lounges and one Korean Air lounge are members of the Priority Pass network. Even though there are other Priority Pass options at the airport, it would be a shame if either the Asiana or Korean Air lounges had to terminate their Priority Pass partnership.
I am also wondering if, given that more and more airlines are starting to offer access to lounges to their economy class passengers – whether for miles or cash – we might be seeing other similar cases in the future. Especially as airline operated lounges start to bite into independent lounges’ revenues and profits – which seems to have been the motivation for bringing up the issue in the Korean case.
Do you think airline lounges should be required to have a “restaurant license?”
If so, should it only be the case if they only sell individual access to non-premium class passengers?