By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Low-cost South Korean carrier, Jin Air, is now accepting online reservations and payments for flights between Seoul and Macau, a route that the Civil Aviation Authority of Macau (AACM) is yet to approve.
The AACM spokeswoman confirmed to the Macau Daily Times yesterday that Jin Air filed an application with the authority in August in the hope of operating a total of five flights weekly between Incheon International Airport in Seoul and the SAR starting November 29 this year.
However, the spokeswoman said there are some documents missing and the carrier still has not handed them in to date, and therefore the application is not yet approved.
In the meantime, as early as September 20 the Jin Air official website launched a promotion for the Seoul-Macau route stating that, “Starting November 29, 2010, Jin Air flies to Macau 5 days a week”.
When asked how long the AACM usually takes to grant an approval of this kind upon receiving all documents required, the spokeswoman said it depends on the “complexity” of the application and an exact timeframe cannot be certain.
The Jin Air website shows that an early bird rate of MOP 1,350 excluding taxes and fuel surcharge will be applied for round trips booked between November 29 and December 31.
According to the flight schedules announced on the website, the maiden Jin Air passenger aircraft should depart Seoul at 11 pm (10 pm Macau time) on November 29 and land in Macau at 1.50 am on November 30.
The first inbound flight to Seoul should then take off from the Macau International Airport at 2.55 am on November 30 and arrive in the destination at 7.20 am the same day.
Flights departing the capital city of South Korea will operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, while those departing from Macau will be on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, the website indicates.
The customer support unit of Jin Air has also confirmed on the phone yesterday that bookings can already be made online by credit card payment.
The aircrafts designated for the route are Boeing 737-800, seating 189 passengers of economy class only.
A 15-day round trip to Seoul is priced at USD 405.45 (around MOP 3,277) including taxes and fuel surcharge, the Jin Air website shows. An early bird promotion has also been launched online in which a 14-day round trip costs USD 257.45 (around MOP 2,081), but ticketing must be completed at least 21 days before departure.
If AACM does approve the application, Jin Air will become a direct competitor for Air Macau which operates the same route four days a week.
Formerly known as Air Korea, Jin Air began operations with domestic flights in July 2008 and is a fully-owned subsidiary of Korean Air – the flag carrier and the largest airline of South Korea.
Phuket route pending
General manager of Greater China of Air Asia, Celia Lao, confirmed to the MDT on the phone yesterday that the airline’s initial plan to launch a route between Macau and Thailand’s Phuket has become “unlikely” to be implemented by the end of this year.
“The market is not enough. The Macau population is small and basically no one flew to Macau from Phuket […] We may not have enough [passengers] even if we just operate three flights a week,” Lao said.
However, she stressed that Air Asia had not put the plan on hold and has continued to keep a close eye on the latest changes and developments in the market.
“The number of expatriates in Macau has not been resumed to the same level before the financial crisis hit the world,” Lao explained.
“The plan is still on our agenda and we’re still interested in it. But the chance [of launching the route] may be bigger next year,” she added.