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Damage claims surge over frequent flight cancellations

Overseas travelers at Incheon Airport (Yonhap)
Overseas travelers at Incheon Airport (Yonhap)
The number of damage claims over canceled or delayed flights has increased as airlines struggle with manpower shortages, according to the Korea Consumer Agency on Monday.

A total of 213 air service-related cases requesting compensation were submitted from January to May this year. In April, when South Korea dropped the bulk of its COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the number of filed claims doubled on-month to 60, the agency said.

The number of overseas travelers in Incheon Airport alone had spiked to over 3.93 million in the first half of this year, surging 233.2 percent on-year, fueled by fully lifted aviation restrictions and antivirus regulations.

Airlines have had to cancel flights due to staffing shortages and they were unable to keep up with the sudden surge in overseas travel, it said.

With the travel industry adjusting to the rebound, the next available flight after a cancellation would usually be in at least two to seven days due to the lack of flights. Before the pandemic, passengers would be put on a flight within the next 24 hours after a cancellation.

In addition, the recent rise in ticket prices has increased the cost burden on consumers. Passengers often have to fork out extra costs when they are reissued new tickets after canceled or delayed flights.

Other complaints include consumers not being able to get on flights as travel agencies failed to provide important flight-related information due to COVID-19 staffing shortages.

The Korea Consumer Agency advises travelers to check flight schedules two to three weeks’ prior as flight schedule changes are frequent due to the pandemic.

The agency also advises travelers to buy flight tickets after checking for any COVID-19 restrictions of their destination countries and prepare the necessary documents beforehand.

By Hong Yoo (