Korean Air resumes Brisbane services as airport deals add $960m to economy

Korean Air resumes Brisbane services as airport deals add $960m to economy

After luring United Airlines to offer daily flights between Brisbane and San Francisco last week, Queensland’s $200 million Attracting Aviation Investment Fund (AAIF) has bolstered the state’s connections with its third-largest trading partner through new services by Korean Air into South Korea beginning this month.

Korean Air is gearing up for five services a week between Brisbane and Incheon, near Seoul, after the airline cut its 30-year association with the city during the pandemic.

The route, which will add 89,000 inbound seats from Korea into Queensland, is expected to boost the local economy by $120 million a year.

The latest airline win brings the total inbound seats secured by the AAIF – a partnership between the Queensland Government, Queensland Government and the state’s key gateway airports of Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns - to 1.1 million in the past year, worth an estimated $960 million in overnight visitor spending.

Ryan Both, the executive general manager of aviation at Brisbane Airport Corporation, describes the additional capacity via Korean Air as ‘great news for Queensland’.

“South Korea is our third-largest trading market and a major technology partner in Queensland’s new energy economy,” Both says.

“We have one of Australia’s largest Korean communities who will now have a direct connection with families - and South Korean tourists and students love coming to Queensland.”

Both notes that Korean Air is one of the world’s largest cargo carriers, with the airline’s Boeing 777 services also bolstering freight services into and out of Brisbane.

Since being established early last year, the AAIF has secured seven new airline agreements that have boosted capacity into Brisbane. These include the United Airlines services from San Francisco, Air Canada from Vancouver, Qatar Airways from Doha, Emirates from Dubai and China Airlines from Taipei.

"During December and January, international travel at BNE was back to 61 per cent of pre-COVID levels, so we still have a way to go to rebuild our network,” Both says.

“But compared with one year ago when we were at just 2 per cent capacity, we have come a long way.”

Brisbane Airport Corporation reports that the new United Airlines service to San Francisco introduced in October last year brought 10,000 passengers through the gates in the first few months of operations, while carrying ‘hundreds of tonnes of chilled Queensland beef, fresh seafood, automotive parts, cosmetics and other high-value exports, generating millions of dollars for local companies’.

United Airlines last week announced a daily direct service between San Francisco and Brisbane to begin 12 months ahead of schedule by the end of October this year.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Brett Fraser sees the latest direct international airline routes as essential for the Queensland tourism industry’s recovery.

"For the last two years, Queensland’s visitor economy has been kept afloat by a thriving domestic tourism market, but our continued success now relies on the return of international guests,” Fraser says.

"The $200 million aviation war chest will help secure millions more airline seats each year and will generate almost $4 billion in overnight visitor expenditure. Numbers as big as these will have a huge impact on our Queensland tourism operators." 

Tourism Research Australia data for the year to September 2022 revealed that Queensland posted a record $24.5 billion domestic visitor spend which was 26 per cent up on pre-pandemic levels.

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