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Korea’s EV investment in Georgia prompts more flights to Atlanta

Delta Air Lines considers easing baggage checks after doubling daily flights

By Shim Woo-hyun

Published : May 27, 2024 - 16:20

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Hyundai Motor Group’s massive EV and battery plant is being built in Ellabell, Georgia. (Bloomberg) Hyundai Motor Group’s massive EV and battery plant is being built in Ellabell, Georgia. (Bloomberg)

South Korean companies’ growing investment in Georgia has led to increases in the number of flights and passengers traveling to Atlanta, the capital and most populous city in the state, according to industry sources Monday.

“Delta Air Lines saw a significant increase in the number of business trips from Incheon to Atlanta and decided to deploy extra flights between the two cities,” said an official from Delta Air Lines' Korean office.

Starting May 7, Delta Air Lines expanded the number of Incheon-Atlanta flights to two per day, seven days a week. The company operates two Airbus A350-900 that can carry around 300 passengers.

In 2023, the company operated just one flight per day, seven days a week. In mid-April, the company began running 10 flights every week.

“Business travelers account for a large share in the total passengers to Atlanta, compared to other major cities in the US. Korean companies’ recent investment in Georgia also helped the figure boost recently,” the official added.

Delta Air Lines said the company is seeking ways to scrap required baggage checks for its passengers from Incheon International Airport when they take connecting domestic flights in the US.

"This measure could make business trips to the US, as well as travels the country in general, much easier," the official said. Delta Air Lines and and its partner Korean Air will work closely to consult with Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, as well as US authorities to introduce the new rule, the official added.

Under existing rules, Korean passengers flying into the US are required to check in their baggage again when connecting to local flights, on top of the luggage inspection already done when boarding from Incheon.

Such moves came after Jeff Moomaw, vice president of Asia Pacific for Delta Air Lines, predicted in December last year that more flights would be needed to cover increasing business trips caused by Korean firms' large investments.

The construction of Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America in Bryan County, Georgia, is one of the recent Korean investments that largely propelled business trips from Incheon to Atlanta.

The construction project, in which Hyundai Motor invested some $7.6 billion, has spiked business trips to Georgia, as the project involves not only Hyundai Motor workers but also those who work at its partner firms for the project, a source from the local battery industry said.

The number of outbound business trips to Georgia is expected to extend further once battery plant projects are in full swing, sources said.

In September last year, Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution, the nation’s top battery maker for electric vehicles, confirmed that they would invest $7.5 billion in a battery cell plant in Georgia, to begin operations in 2025.

In May last year, Hyundai Motor announced a separate $5 billion deal with SK On, another major battery maker here, to build a battery cell plant in Bartow County, Georgia.

“The two construction projects are still in their early stages. More Korean workers are likely to visit Georgia in the future,” an industry official said.