Mongolian Airlines under fire
Mongolian Airlines has come under criticism for launching charter flights without approval from the Korean government, duping air travelers who purchased unauthorized tickets. To fly chartered flights between Korea and other countries, airlines are obliged to receive prior approval from aviation authorities here. According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Tuesday, Mongolia’s flagship carrier has been selling tickets on three weekly chartered flights since June without a green light from the authorities. It operates six regular flights per week between Incheon and Ulan Bator, with Korean Air providing another six weekly flights.Passengers with bogus tickets have been able to board a plane only when seats on regular flights become vacant.
Some travelers are even forced to fly to Japan and other countries to take a flight operated by other airlines affiliated with Mongolian Airlines.
The airline operates a Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the Incheon-Ulan Bator route, which carries up to 170 passengers.
Given this, more than 500 passengers a week, or 2,000 for the month of June, were estimated to have bought unauthorized plane tickets.
“Well before June, we notified Mongolian Airlines and travel agencies of our decision that the airline would not be given approval for launching chartered flights this year. But the company ignored our notice by selling seats on unapproved flights in order to make more money,” a ministry official said.
He said the ministry is considering imposing a range of legal and administrative penalties on Mongolian Airlines, including the suspension of its business license.
“We will do everything we can to minimize damage to those who purchased the problematic tickets. We will also try to revise the aviation treaty with Mongolia to increase the number of regular flights,” the official said.
Checks on number of flights
In response, the airline’s Seoul office said the company received approval for the operation of three weekly charter flights on July 4, admitting that it sold unauthorized tickets until Sunday.
“We got the go-ahead from the ministry Monday for our chartered flights,” said a sales manager, who declined to be named. But he refused to collaborate further on the issue.
After launching the Incheon-Ulan Bator route in 1999, Mongolian Airlines operated charter flights during the summer peak season every year to meet growing travel demand until last year.
But Mongolian Airlines, along with Korean Air, has tried to keep weekly regular flights at the current six for years because if the number of weekly flights rose, other airlines would be allowed to operate on the lucrative route, according to the ministry.
The two airlines have been criticized for charging travelers higher airfare, compared to those of other similar-distance international routes.
An economy-class round ticket on the Incheon-Ulan Bator route, which takes about three and an half hours, is priced at about 600,000 won.
But the price goes up to 900,000 won during peak seasons.
On the other hand, low-season fares for Incheon-Taipei routes are about 360,000 won rising to 430,000 won on blackout flight dates.
Aviation authorities here have been trying to boost the number of flights between Korea and Mongolia to make it possible for other airlines to operate the route.
The move is aimed to provide air travelers with more choices and bring down ticket prices.