It has been a while between drinks, but an Australian airline is once again flying into Seoul, South Korea. On the weekend, Jetstar inaugurated its thrice-weekly Boeing 787-8 service between the Gold Coast and Seoul.
JQ49 pushed back from the Gold Coast’s Coolangatta Airport yesterday, Sunday, September 8, 2019, for the 9½ hour daytime flight up to Seoul. The overnight return flight, JQ50, landed at Coolangatta earlier this morning. The operating aircraft is VH-VKF, one of Jetstar’s hardworking 787-8 Dreamliners.
The service, which will operate on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, codeshares with South Korea’s Jeju Air and adds 52,260 new seats per year into the Gold Coast. According to Jetstar, South Koreans travel more frequently than any other Asia Pacific nationality, and the airline and Gold Coast tourism authorities hope the beaches and razzle-dazzle of Australia’s glitter strip will lure them south by the planeload.
On the weekend, Jetstar’s CEO Gareth Evans, said;
“The Gold Coast has everything Australia is famous for; sun, surf, great food, shopping and amazing outdoor and adventure experiences.
“We expect our new service will contribute up to $170 million to the Queensland economy over the next three years, and with Jetstar connections to seven other Australian cities, South Koreans are now able to enjoy the Gold Coast as the perfect place to start their holiday in Australia.”
A renewed focus on South Korea
The new flights between the Gold Coast and Seoul represent a pivot of sort by local airlines back towards South Korea. It has been some 20 years since Qantas last flew regularly into Seoul. Ansett also briefly sent Boeing 747-300s into Seoul in the late 1990s before their demise in 2001. But in the intervening years, the air traffic between Australia and South Korea has been largely left to South Korean airlines.
While schedules and aircraft types do periodically vary, Korean Air currently flies a daily A380 between Seoul and Sydney and is switching this week to a daily Boeing 787-9 service between Seoul and Brisbane. Korean Air did fly between Seoul and Melbourne but quit that route in 2013. Asiana is now flying a daily A380 between Seoul and Sydney. Qantas codeshares with Asiana on its Seoul – Sydney route.
In the year to August 30, 2019, 276,800 South Koreans visited Australia, traveling almost entirely on either the Korean Air or Asiana services. Jetstar would like a piece of the action, with the Gold Coast the third most popular Australian destination for South Koreans. Jetstar’s Gareth Evans said:
“We know from experience that low-cost flights have a strong influence on setting tourism trends and in markets like Japan the number of Australian visitors has doubled since we first launched flights in 2007. We expect to see a similar trend with our flights to Seoul.
South Koreans travel more per capita than any other country in the Asia Pacific and rank Australia at the top country they want to visit.”
It’s not just Jetstar turning its attention to South Korea. Across the ditch, Air New Zealand has just commenced flights between Auckland and Seoul, a route Korean Air has long enjoyed a monopoly on.
An added bonus for Australian domestic travelers
Jetstar’s services between the Gold Coast and Seoul have another interesting dimension. They are adding to Australia’s pool of domestic flights operated by widebody aircraft.
The Boeing 787-8 operating the Gold Coast – Seoul flights need to be positioned into the Gold Coast before operating the outbound Seoul flights and out of the Gold Coast after arriving back from Seoul.
Over the southern hemisphere 2019/20 summer, Jetstar is selling these positioning flights as regular domestic services at very good prices. There are two return 787-8 services a week between Sydney and the Gold Coast and one weekly return service between Melbourne and the Gold Coast. This is set to change in March 2020 when the Melbourne picks up an extra return 787-8 flight and Sydney drops back to one.
The downside is these flights operate through the international terminals, meaning there is a bit more rigmarole when departing and arriving. The upside is the 787-8s are larger and more spacious than the aircraft that otherwise fly into the Gold Coast on domestic services.
Which makes these new flights to Seoul a win on two fronts. It opens up a new international route and provides for an interesting alternative to the usual domestic services into the Gold Coast.