Houston's Korean Air Nonstop Called A Valuable Link

July 11--Houston's business ties to South Korea will strengthen and the city's Korean population could even double thanks to the recently launched nonstop flight between Houston and Seoul, Ambassador Suk-bum Park, consul general of the Republic of Korea, said Thursday.

Park told Houston's Asian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday that the new nonstop flight will create more opportunities for connections between with the city and Asia.

"It's Houston's time now," Park said.

Korean Air has been flying to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for 20 years. American Airlines also offers nonstop service out of Dallas. But in May, the airline launched its first nonstop flight between Houston and Incheon International Airport near Seoul. Before the first flight took off, the airline decided to boost the flight from four days a week to daily.

Park, who is based in Houston, said before Korean Air added a nonstop flight to Dallas in 1994, Houston had a larger Korean population than its rival Texas city. Since, however, the Korean population in Dallas has tripled, while Houston's has remained at roughly 30,000. He predicted in the coming years Houston's Korean population will double to 60,000 thanks to the nonstop flight.

Park also said Dallas also monopolizes the air cargo business between Texas and South Korea. He said trade between South Korea and Houston has increased by 30 percent over the last decade, but that has been solely by sea. He predicted that air cargo trade would increase in Houston and Korean investors will soon invest in spas, entertainment and theme parks in Houston because of the nonstop flight.

Michael Kim, regional manager in Houston for Korean Air, said Incheon International Airport is a major hub and will be able to connect those flying through Bush Intercontinental to many cities in Asia easily.

This week, the airline announced it will add more than a dozen weekly flights to China and is improving its schedule from Beijing to Incheon. In all, the airline is increasing flights to six Chinese cities and adding 15 flights to China each week.

Kim said he has confidence in the Houston market because the first few months of service have been very successful.

Mayor Annise Parker is planning a trip to Seoul in September.

Houston Airport System director Mario Diaz told the group that Houston is poised to attract even more international carriers after the success of the three new nonstop flights to Asia announced last year between Houston and Istanbul, Beijing and Seoul, respectively.

He said many advised him at the beginning of his efforts to attract more international carriers that Korean Air would be a hard sell on Houston, as it had a strong relationship with Dallas. Once Turkish Airlines and Air China began offering nonstop daily flights, Diaz said he was able to attract the Korean airline.

He said that the airport hopes to announce four new nonstop flights from international carriers this year.

"Now we have connections to major economies in Asia," Diaz said. "Houston is on the map internationally."

Copyright 2014 - Houston Chronicle

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