Korean Air considering Balkan expansion

Korean Air has said it is exploring opportunities to expand its operations in the Balkans, primarily Croatia and Serbia, but has ruled out the introduction of scheduled flights in the short-term. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, Korean Air said, "The Balkan region, including Croatia and Serbia, is an important market for Korean Air, and we are currently considering various possibilities to expand our destination network there. We currently have a plan to operate five charter flights between Seoul Incheon Airport and Zagreb in May and June of this year, however, we do not have specific plans to launch a regular service in the short-term".

As part of the airline's medium-term plans, Korean Air's sister company Jin Air, which is a long haul low cost carrier, plans to introduce services to Zagreb and Budapest next year, followed by Belgrade and Bucharest in 2020. The carrier operates a fleet of wide-body Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. The President of Korean AIr, Won-Tae Cho, previously said that the carrier is also looking into further expanding in Croatia, which could include flights to the coast, upon the arrival of additional Dreamliner jets it has on order in 2019. Dubrovnik Airport's newly appointed General Manager, Frano Luetić, told EX-YU Aviation News last year that, "This far-away market [South Korea] is the most important for Dubrovnik. Korean tourists are most plentiful during the winter months. It is very important for us to improve connectivity with Korea. It is a big market and we could attract even more tourists".

In 2017 some 444.000 Korean holidaymakers visited Croatia, representing an increase of 20% on the year before. The head of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Staničić, said yesterday, "This year we expect for the number of arrivals from South Korea to continue growing. We are increasing our promotional activities on this market since Korean tourists primarily travel outside the peak summer months, helping us extend the tourist season". Mr Staničić added that the Tourist Board plans to open an office in Seoul later this year. Korean Air currently codeshares on ČSA Czech Airlines' seasonal flights between Prague and Zagreb, while Croatia Airlines recently inked an agreement with Asiana Airlines, placing its "OU" designator code and flight numbers onto Asiana's services from Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Paris to Seoul. On the other hand, the Deputy Minister for Civil Aviation in the South Korean government, Suh Hoon-Taik, said that flights between Seoul and Belgrade could be established in the near future, noting that there is interest on both sides to commence scheduled flights between Korea and Serbia. He added that he will work to improve cooperation between Air Serbia and Korean carriers. Both Croatia and Serbia have ratified new Air Service Agreements with South Korea over the past two years.