Korean Air will put a halt to flights between Busan, Korea and Sapporo, Japan beginning this September. This is the first time that a large Korean airliner will shut down its flights to Japan amid a spreading boycott of Japanese goods among Koreans following Japan’s restrictions on exports to Korea. If the situation holds, other major airlines and low-cost carriers (LCCs) will follow suit, aviation industry watchers say.
Korean Air decided to suspend the Busan-Sapporo service, which was operated three times a week, beginning on Sept. 3. Nobody knows when Korean Air will resume the service at the moment. Some Korean LCCs recently suspended flights to Japan, but they did that before Japan's economic retaliatory measures began.
"We had considered suspending the Busan-Sapporo route due to excessive competition since May. A boycott of Japanese goods and travel among Koreans decisively prompted Korean Air to make the decision," a Korean Air official said. "The boycott is affecting Japanese cities popular among foreign tourists such as Sapporo more than large cities such as Tokyo." Korean Air plans to flexibly operate flights to Japan by checking reservation rates for each route in the future.
"It is highly likely that other Korean airlines will shut down some of their routes to Japan as the largest national flag carrier has decided to suspend its flight to Sapporo," said an industry watcher. “In particular, services from regional cities in Korea to Japan will be hard hit.”