South Korea's Asiana sets a scorching pace

THERE are not many airlines that can boast of having been created in less than one year.

South Korea's newest airline, Asiana Airlines, claims it had its first jets flying just 10 months after plans were hatched to launch what is the nation's second airline.

The airline is poised to continue its breakneck development now that the Seoul Government has said it will lift regional flight restrictions on Asiana next year, allowing it into most destinations and routes held by giant Korean Airlines (KAL).

Under guidelines established in 1990, Asiana is allowed to fly only to Japan, Southeast Asia and the United States, while KAL, which flies to 37 international destinations, has no such restrictions.

Officials feel the rules need changing as South Korea has established diplomatic ties with many nations - including China - since the original restrictions were put into effect.

Asiana now has a fleet of 29 new Boeing jets flying to 16 domestic and 19 international destinations, adding up to 480 weekly flights on its domestic network and 76 international services.

In the next seven years the Seoul-based airline intends to double its fleet size.

Last month, Asiana inaugurated flights to Honolulu and Ho Chi Minh City.

Asiana public relations manager Karen Whitson said the carrier's long-term expansion plans could include Canadian and European destinations.

''Our intent is to expand but we do have to do it within the system,'' Ms Whitson said.

Analysts said Asiana was far from making a profit, mostly because outbound tourism from South Korea was plunging and business in its main market, Japan, was also down.