Over the last couple of days, the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) announced that the country has signed open-skies agreements allowing unlimited scheduled flights to and from Singapore and Brunei.
With that, South Korea now has such agreements with nine out of the ten ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.
South Korea – Singapore Open-Skies Agreement
The first of the two new agreements – the one with Singapore – was announced by MOLIT on November 23, 2019.
With that, Singapore became the eight ASEAN country to sign such an agreement with South Korea after: Thailand (2006) Malaysia (2007), Vietnam (2008), Myanmar (2010), Cambodia (2010), Laos (2011), and the Philippines (2017).
Besides allowing for an unlimited number of non-stop flights, airlines will also be allowed to operate up to 14 weekly fifth freedom flights, a considerable increase from the previous 10 weekly flights.
An official from the Ministry is quoted saying the following about the new agreement (translation by KN Aviation):
The liberalization of air travel between Korea and Singapore will reduce the schedule- and cost-barriers between the two countries, increasing travel and trade with Southeast Asia.
The new agreement is expected to accommodate for the steadily increasing demand for air travel between the two countries. According to OAG data cited in MOLIT’s announcement, the number of passengers between the two countries grew over the last five years at a CAGR of 5.1% from 950,000 in 2013 to 1.22 million in 2018.
Currently, there are non-stop flights offered between two city pairs:
- Seoul – Singapore: Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines
- Busan – Singapore: Jeju Air, Singapore Airlines
In addition to the flights above, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary Scoot operates Singapore – Taipei – Seoul fifth freedom flights.
South Korea – Brunei Open-Skies Agreement
The second open-skies agreement – with Brunei – was announced by MOLIT a day after the one with Singapore, on November 24, 2019. With that, Indonesia became the only ASEAN country not to have an open-skies agreement with South Korea.
Besides agreeing for an unlimited number of non-stop flights between the two countries, South Korea and Brunei also agreed to allow up to four weekly fifth freedom flights. It’s worth noting that the announcement cites “Brunei – China – South Korea” and “Brunei – South Korea – United States” as examples of that.
Currently, Royal Brunei Airlines is the only airline connecting the two countries with direct flights. It operates flights between the capitals Bandar Seri Begawan and Seoul four times a week.
With open-skies allowing – at least theoretically – more airlines to compete on flights, this is a good news for passengers. At the same time, I wonder how happy the three major airlines from South Korea and Singapore are about this development.
In either case, the new agreement should allow for more frequencies between South Korea and the two countries – especially Singapore. It should also allow other – especially low-cost – airlines to enter the market. Last but not least, it should allow for new routes to be established.
Whether any – or all – of that will happen will, of course, depend on the airlines. It would not be surprising to see some of the Korean low-cost airlines to establish more connections, though – particularly to Singapore.