When the CEO greets you dressed in blue jeans and casual cream blazer just like the cabin crew does on the flight, you know the company really means business in promoting travel to the young and cost conscious.
Jin Air, which joined the growing roster of Korean low-cost carriers last July 17 with its first flight from Seoul to Jeju Island, is using a combination of image and sensible management to maintain fares that are 20 percent lower than existing domestic legacy airlines.
Kim Jae Kun, Jin Air CEO, said: “The employee uniforms of jeans, t-shirts and jackets are comfortable, yet attractive attire, symbolising our philososphy to provide practical travel services.
“Unlike other carriers that determine their fares according to weekday or weekend periods, ours will be done according to other factors such as the season, day of the week and flight and departure time.”
Jin Air is made up of a 200-strong workforce, which is expected to multi task. “All of us perform our main job and similar associated responsibilities,” said Kim, a 30-year airline sales and marketing veteran, who continues to go out into the field to meet customers. Meanwhile, the cabin crew not only serve passengers but keep the aircraft tidy and check boarding passes at the gate as well.
From October, Jin Air will increase frequency to Jeju from eight flights a day to 16 and launch a Busan-Jeju service in the first half of 2009. This will be followed by international destinations in the later part of the year, with secondary cities in Japan and China being eyed. “We don’t want to cannibalise Korean Air’s routes,” said Kim. The carrier is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Korean Air.
Among the destinations being considered are Kitakyushu in Fukuoka, Japan as well as Yantai, Yenji, Qingdao and Weihai on Mainland China. It was still too early to be specific about Southeast Asia, the Jin Air CEO added.
Leisure traffic and not business travellers are Jin Air’s main market, Kim emphasised, saying the latter prefers Korean Air’s full-service product.
Jin Air is manned by pilots seconded from Korean Air to help the carrier through its early stages. A pilot recruitment programme is now taking place, with successful applicants to receive training from Korean Air.
While Jin Air makes a conscious effort to maintain an entirely different brand positioning from the mother company, when it comes to issues of safety and professional operating systems, “we are completely related,” said its CEO.
“Jin” originates from the Korean word for “genuine” or “true”, which according to Kim reflects the service culture permeating onboard. Its English website is still under development and will be launched early 2009.
By year-end, Jin Air will operate three Boeing B737s, all featuring 189 Economy Class seats in a 3-3 configuration. Two 292-seater Airbus A300-600s will be introduced next year to bring the inventory to five aircraft. Seating is based on first come, first taken basis.
Other players in the Korean low-cost carrier arena include Hansung Airlines, Kostar, Yeongnam Air, Jeju Air and Air Busan of Asiana Airlines, the country’s second largest legacy airline.
Margie T Logarta