Korea’s top two airlines have gotten massive profits by raising fares on the routes to North America, though they saved on fuel costs due to taking polar routes.
According to data submitted to lawmaker Chung Woo-taek of the ruling Saenuri Party by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Korean Air Lines, the largest air carrier in Korea, saved around 30 billion won (US$28 million) in oil costs after it was allowed to use polar routes starting in 2006. Asiana Airlines also saved 8 billion won (US$7.5 million) since 2009 by making the same use of its polar routes.
The routes refer to airways in the Arctic region, allowing planes to save time and thus cut costs.
Korean Air Lines operates 2,000 flights annually by using the routes connecting Incheon to New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, and Toronto. Asiana also uses the routes to connect Incheon to New York and Chicago.
Korean Air Lines, however, raised its fare for Incheon-New York by 15.6% in 2010 compared to 2006, when it began to use the polar routes. Asiana also raised the fare by 5.35% in 2010 from a year earlier.