South Korean carrier Jin Air has become the latest international airline to begin service to Australia, after its inaugural flight from Seoul touched down in Cairns on Thursday.
Flight LJ659, operated by Boeing 777-200ER HL7743, landed a little after 0630 local time after an eight-hour journey from Seoul. The aircraft was met by an Airservices Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting monitor cross as it made its way to the terminal.
The 777-200ER was on the ground in Cairns for about about an hour and 40 minutes before operating the reciprocal LJ660 back to Seoul.
Jin Air planned to operate to Cairns twice a week with 777-200ERs, which were configured with 393 or 355 seats according to the airline’s website. The airline has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Queensland government to help support the 16 flights scheduled between now and February 2017.
“We have already discussed a further seasonal service operating later in 2017 and for that to lead on to a year round service,” Carter said.
Passengers on the flight were met by a host of dignitaries who had descended on Cairns Airport for the inaugural flight, including Premier Annastacia Palaczszuk, her ministerial colleague Curtis Pitt, as well as the local mayor Bob Manning and Yoonjoo Park from the South Korean embassy.
Currently, Korean Air flies from Seoul (Incheon) to Brisbane and Sydney, having dropped its Melbourne service in 2013. Meanwhile, Asiana flies only between Sydney and the Korean capital.
Jin Air, which is a subsidiary of Korean Air, could potentially offer flight links beyond Cairns thanks to an interline agreement with the Jetstar group of airlines that was signed in April 2016.
Cairns Airport chief executive Norris Carter said the airport was honoured to have been chosen as Jin Air’s first Australian destination.
“When we met with Jin Air over a year ago to discuss potential flights to Cairns they were very keen to establish a direct connection for South Korean people to arrive into our Northern Australia gateway to experience the Great Barrier Reef,” Carter said in a statement.
“They were also impressed with the excellent domestic network that Cairns offers, giving visitors the opportunity for convenient travel to other parts of Australia.”
Carter said the number of South Koreans arriving at Cairns airport had risen 25 per cent in the 12 months to October.