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South Korea expands “flight to nowhere” services


The South Korean government will expand the so-called “flight to nowhere” services while seeking to sign “travel bubble” agreements or quarantine-free corridors with other countries to support the aviation industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it will diversify international sightseeing flights without landing, which are currently limited to outbound domestic airlines departing only from Incheon International Airport by making such flights available at other regional, smaller airports in the country and allowing even inbound travelers to fly over the Korean Peninsula and then return to their point of departure without landing.

The measures, which are parts of the government’s remedies to revitalize the country’s aviation industry, come after the number of international passengers in December plummeted 97 percent from the same period a year earlier. It is also projected that it may take up to four years to see a recovery in the airline industry to pre-pandemic levels.

The ministry said it also considers a measure that passengers using this service can enjoy duty-free shopping at domestic airports without entry into the country. It is also considering international tourism flights with entry to designated areas around the airport under limited conditions.

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The government will also seek to sign “travel bubble” agreements or quarantine-free corridors with other countries. A travel bubble refers to a partnership between two or more designated cities or countries to allow for quarantine-free air travel in both directions without setting a limit on the purpose of a visit.

Other measures include policy loans worth up to US$ 178 million to be offered to ailing budget carriers, as well as reducing fees for the use of airport facilities.