By Kim Jae-heun
Traveling to Europe and the Middle East has become a lot faster and more convenient for Koreans as an additional airway crossing the Chinese territory opened for operation yesterday.
This comes as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), reached an agreement with the Chinese government Wednesday, to double-track the airway over its territory from a single one.
The discussion on the additional airway started in 2016, however, the decision was delayed due to the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system to Korea.
Negotiations got back on track this May and the two countries finalized the deal to double-track the airway during a meeting held in Dalian.
The single air passage has been used for the two countries' planes to fly in and out of Korea and towards the Middle East and Europe. The single track route used different altitudes, arrivals and departures, whereas the new double passage will operate one inbound track and one outbound track.
For decades, the single air way was notorious for congestion, which caused many delays particularly to European countries.
The topic of doubling the single sky route had been raised for a long time as it was the busiest among the five major air routes for flying in and out of Korea, said the MOLIT.
Currently, 77 airliners fly up to 400 planes from Incheon to 60 countries and 106 cities around the world using the sky road above China.
The MOLIT expects over 150,000 planes a year to benefit from this agreement.
The rate of European flights being delayed for over an hour was 12 percent (2,188 flights). The government says this will be reduced to 7 percent (1,276 flights).
The traffic ease will lessen passengers' inconvenience, some of whom would have waited for an hour in the plane until it took off. The airliners will also save fuel by departing faster.
"With the agreement of a double-track operation for airway routes above the Chinese territory, the traffic congestion will be eased and this will certainly contribute to aviation efficiency in the East Asian region," a MOLIT official said.
"If the North and South Korean relationship improves and the international route above the western sea opens up, it will relieve traffic congestion and reduce the flight delay rate here," a MOLIT official added.