South Korea's flag carrier expects to fly about 1.7 million passengers to and from the Philippines this year, optimistic that tourism demand will be sustained by the traveling youth.

Korean Air corporate communications manager Kenneth Lee told The STAR that the airline flew more than 1.7 million travelers between the Philippines and South Korea in 2023.

Lee said the airline projects to serve around the same number of passengers this year, banking on the recovering demand for air travel from both Filipinos and South Koreans.

Korean Air currently sells at least 2,800 seats every day for flights between the Philippines and South Korea. At this rate, the airline is exceeding its daily sales prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Lee, the bulk of the demand for trips to the Philippines to the South Korean youth who head to islands for water activities. This demographic likes to go off the beaten tracks, exploring destinations that require them to travel outside the radar of urban centers.

Lee added that these travelers typically stay in the Philippines for an average of three months to the benefit of communities where they choose to live.

Lee said the pandemic failed to diminish the Filipinos' love for Seoul as the Korean Embassy is processing some 1,300 applications for visas per day.

However, Filipinos explore Seoul mostly on packaged tours, as they stay in the city for a shorter period compared to their South Korean counterparts in the Philippines.

Korean Air operates in the Philippine market through hubs in Manila and Cebu. The airline offers 21 flights a week, three trips per day, between Manila and Incheon using an Airbus A330 and Boeing 777.

South Korea's flag carrier also runs once a day flights between Cebu and Incheon utilizing a 777-200.

Meanwhile, Korean Air's budget unit Asiana Airlines connects Clark and Incheon four times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Based on latest data, Korean Air corners at least 25 percent of the market for flights between the Philippines and South Korea, sharing the remainder of the demand with Philippine carriers.

Korean Air serves the Southeast Asian region through its joint venture with Delta Air, one of the leading operators in the US, splitting the costs and revenue from the operations.

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