Korean budget airlines in dire straits from Korea's Japan boycott

Neil West, Sept. 18, 2019, 10:54 a.m.

Korea's budget airlines are feeling the strain as Koreans increasingly shun trips to Japan amid an escalating spat between the neighbors, which has led to a boycott of Japanese products.

Eastar Jet announced Monday that it will go into "emergency" mode. Two weeks ago the carrier began accepting unpaid leave applications from cabin crew for October to December.

Industry sources say that if revenue continues to fall, it may take more drastic measures such as reducing its workforce.

Air Busan canceled five flights on its Daegu to Japan route before shutting down its operation in the southern city earlier this month.

"Low-cost carriers may be forced to scale down their plans for new hires in the first half of next year," said an industry insider.

Korea's six budget airlines posted losses in the second quarter of this year and are likely to stay in the red in the third quarter.

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