Incheon Airport Transportation Center Main Hall, [Image by Minseong Kim]

Gateway to Asia Opens with Seoul-Boston Direct Flights


A recent deal between Logan International Airport in Boston and Korean Air will connect Seoul and Boston with nonstop flights for the first time since 2000. This agreement will make Seoul the fifth Asian city connected to Boston by a direct flight, and Boston will become the twelfth US city with direct flights to and from Seoul. Boston is set to become the easternmost US destination for Seoul, while Seoul, with a metropolitan area of over 25 million people, will become the third largest city with direct flights to and from Boston.

Korean Air’s expansion to Boston is part of a joint venture between Korean Air and Delta Air Lines that began in May of 2018 with a far-reaching codeshare program. The new direct flight between Boston and Seoul is especially important, as the two cities are considered important locations for high-tech industries and education, along with international tourism. Given Korean Air’s extensive network in Asia, with flights offered to over 60 cities, the Seoul-Boston nonstop flight offers immense potential to increase tourism to Boston from all of Asia.

Extending operation of airlines is expected to increase tourism revenue, since many Korean tourists visited Massachusetts even before the direct flight. In 2016, visitors from Korea spent more than $366 million in the state, making travel the biggest source of revenue from Korea at 20% of total exports. Also, it will be helpful for the over 3,000 Korean students studying in Massachusetts who contributed $131 million to the economy during their stays in the state in 2017. The direct flights between two cities can promote their travels by providing more convenient options than the previous route which required a transfer at New York City. This direct flight also has the potential to contribute to the economic growth of the two cities by encouraging foreign investment as well as creating jobs. Toyota, for example, decided to build its new plant in Dallas because it could save time and money thanks to the direct flights that connect the two cities.

Airline partnerships have often helped connect countries. A partnership between Island Air of Hawai‘i and Jin Air of South Korea brought direct flights between Seoul and Honolulu, along with a codeshare that further connects Kailua-Kona, Maui, and Kaua‘i, while a similar partnership between Alaska Airways and Fiji Airways expanded codeshare for flights between Fiji and 19 US cities. These partnerships reduce travel time and eliminate the hassle of rechecking bags, making tourism and exchange a smoother process.

Luke Pluta-Ehlers is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Global Studies and Geography.

Sinae Yu is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a young fellow of Asan Academy. She studied English Language & Literature and Philosophy at Seoul National University.

[Image by Minseong Kim]