By Jun Ji-hye
More than 20,000 passengers have boarded “international sightseeing flights” operated by domestic airlines, which take passengers over other countries and then return to Korea. The special services were launched in December last year to generate profits for airlines and duty-free stores amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
Passengers using these flights are given the same duty-free benefits as other passengers using regular international flights.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Korea Customs Service, a total of 216 special flights have operated between Dec. 12 and Aug. 31, with the number of passengers tallied at 22,551.
The passengers have spent a total of 33 billion won ($28 million) at duty-free shops and the most popular products were cosmetics, whose sales reached 8.2 billion won.
The flights, which departed only from Incheon International Airport at the beginning, began departing from other domestic and international airports such as Gimpo, Gimhae and Daegu, starting in May.
The expansion of the services to regional airports came as part of the government’s efforts to meet growing demand for travel and invigorate the airline, tourism and duty-free industries amid deepening difficulties facing them due to the prolonged pandemic.