Cheap flights from Australia to South Korea as Jetstar launches Seoul route

Jetstar has launched its new route into Asia, with non-stop flights from the Gold Coast to South Korea's capital, Seoul, taking off on Sunday.

It's the first time a low-cost airline has linked the two countries. Currently two Korean airlines, Asiana and Korean Air, fly between Sydney and Seoul, while Korean Air also offers direct flights from Brisbane.

Jetstar will operate the route three times a week, codesharing with Korea's Jeju Air and flying a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner featuring 321 economy class seats and 21 business class seats.

Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans said he expected South Korea would jump to the top of the list for many Australian travellers with the advent of the new route.

"We knew that the lack of low fares in the market was a barrier to people taking the trip between the two countries," he said.

Mr Evans said low cost flights had been "unbelievably popular" with 15,000 seats already sold. Launch fares were on offer from $179 one way. Mr Evans said one-way fares were currently about $300 to $400.

"It's not only people from the Gold Coast going - there have been significant connecting passengers from Sydney and Melbourne," he said.

"We know from experience that low cost flights have a strong influence on setting tourism trends, which we've seen in markets like Japan where the number of Australian visitors has doubled since we first launched flights in 2007," he said.

The number of Australian visitors to Japan has surged from 150,000 a decade ago to more than 480,000 in the 12 months to July this year - an increase of more than 320 per cent. While the number of travellers to South Korea has also doubled over the past 10 years, the total number of Australians visiting is just 78,000 a year, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. .

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But a key aim for the airline will be bringing Korean tourists to Australia, with Jetstar forecasting 50,000 visitors per year, bringing $170 million into the Gold Coast's economy..

"South Koreans have the highest propensity to travel of any nation in the world," Mr Evans said.."They take the most flights per capita … and they love low cost fares. They have the highest penetration of low cost carriers of any nation in the world."

"There will be a lot of demand from Korea, but we're betting on huge increases in demand from Australians as well."

Mr Evans said that travellers booked on the route thus far were about 70 per cent Korean and 30 per cent Australian, but he expected that to change over time to 50-50, as it had with Japan.

South Korea's international profile has risen steadily in recent years, with Korean cuisine enjoying global popularity, the hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2018, and the spread of its huge pop music scene, known as K-Pop, into Western culture.

The new flights come as Australian airlines face difficulties with routes in other parts of north Asia.

Due to continued political unrest impacting travel, Virgin Australia recently announced it would drop its non-stop Melbourne to Hong Kong route to fly from Brisbane to Tokyo instead. Qantas has announced it will drop its Sydney-Beijing route in March due to increased competition from Chinese carriers.

Jetstar, meanwhile, is facing issues at home, with pilots set to start strike action next weekend, causing delays and cancellations over the busy lead-up to Christmas.

Craig Platt travelled to Seoul as a guest of Jetstar.

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See also: The airlines flying the most cutting-edge planes to Australia

See also: Budget (airline) wedding: Couple gets married on Jetstar flight

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