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Asiana Airlines seeks gov't license for new budget carrier

Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea's No. 2 full service carrier, said Monday that it submitted a request to the government to launch a new budget airline.

Asiana said the new low-cost carrier, Air Seoul, will use Incheon International Airport as its main hub. The company already operates Air Busan based out of Gimhae International Airport in the southeastern part of the country, which serves South Korea's second largest city and South Gyeongsang Province.

Asiana set up a formal task force in March after it decided to launch a second affiliate airline and settled on Air Seoul as the name in the following month.

Industry sources said Asiana had originally wanted to request a license in May, but this was delayed due to an Asiana plane skidding off the runway in Hiroshima on April 14, and the sharp drop in passenger traffic after the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in late May.

Insiders said that opposition from other budget carriers also contributed to the request being forwarded now.

The new low-cost carrier is expected to compete fiercely with other no-frills airlines for the popular Japan and Southeast Asia routes.

"Details regarding flight schedules will be set up in line with permission given by the transport ministry," a company source said.

The ministry said business permits are usually given within 25 days of a request being received, while an air operation certificate for domestic routes is released in less than 90 days.

"Once it gets the domestic AOC, Air Busan will have to seek similar permits abroad," an official said. "The local permission will be given, based on the ability of the LCC to operate properly, follow safety rules and improve the convenience of users."

Air Seoul is expected to get its first plane airborne in mid-2016, with its pilots to be borrowed from Asiana initially, before it gradually training its own flight crews. (Yonhap)

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