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Korea to allow international flights without landing

Passengers on ‘flights to nowhere’ to receive same tax benefits for duty-free shopping

Passengers stare outside the windows in a sightseeing program offered by Asiana Airlines, in this photo taken on Oct. 24. (Yonhap)
Passengers stare outside the windows in a sightseeing program offered by Asiana Airlines, in this photo taken on Oct. 24. (Yonhap)
With the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on the airline industry, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Thursday that the government would help local airliners launch international flights without landing.

“To support the ailing airline industry and fuel the mood for spending, we have decided to pursue adoption of a new type of traveling -- international flights without landing,” Hong, who doubles as deputy prime minister said in a meeting of economic-related ministers.

The special flights would allow local carriers to enter airspace above other countries, but return without landing. It would be similar to the “flights to nowhere” programs that the local airlines have been promoting, but with a global destination.

“The program without entry or departure from another country would be temporarily operated for 12 months and passengers would be required for quarantine procedures only when they’re departing, while receiving the same tax-free benefits as regular travelers,” he added.

The combined value of products eligible for tax-free benefits for duty-free purchases here stands at $600 at the moment.

Other quarantine measures related to the program such as online ticketing, physical distancing in entering boarding gates at airports and using limousine buses would be implemented as well.

Hong said that the preparations for the program would be ready through cooperation of related ministries and industries by the end of the month.

Both big and low-cost carriers including Korean Air, Asiana, Jeju Air and Jin Air have been designing and preparing for the launch of the “no-landing” program.

To further support Asia’s fourth-largest economy hit by the pandemic, Hong vowed to invest 1.6 trillion won ($1.43 billion) in eight different areas with high digital and “contactless” growth potential. The areas are: finance, the medical field, education, commuting, small businesses and the self-employed, logistics, digital contents and public administration. 
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki presides over a meeting on the government's response to the economy at the Seoul government complex building in Seoul on Nov. 19, 2020. (Yonhap)
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki presides over a meeting on the government's response to the economy at the Seoul government complex building in Seoul on Nov. 19, 2020. (Yonhap)
As part of the investment, 1,000 startups focused on the development of contactless technology would receive financial support on research and development through 2025, and a separate financial support program worth 9 trillion won would be launched for the firms.

Special service vouchers related to contactless technology would be provided for 160,000 small and medium-sized firms here until 2021, and a venture capital fund with 200 billion won would be established to lure overseas investors.

On the ongoing strong won trend, the nation’s fiscal chief said that the financial authorities are closely monitoring the foreign exchange market, expressing concerns of excessive currency volatility.

The local currency ended at 1,103.8 won against the US greenback on Wednesday, strengthening 2.8 won from the previous session and marking the lowest closing figure in 29 months. But, apparently affected by Hong‘s remarks, the won fell 11.8 won from the previous session to end at 1,115.6 won against the dollar.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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