Typical Runaway Juno photo (quote)



Today, I reveal the secret.

The truth about Last Minute Flight Ticket System in Korea..


There isn’t one.


There, I said it. And yes, I’m serious.

Then, how do I know their dirty little secret?

It goes way back, like two weeks. My friend Katie Tibbetts and I decided to go on a trip during our long weekend. We both were and are having some difficult time at this stage of lives, we needed some fresh breeze. The question.. where to?


“Have you ever done just go to the airport and grab the last minute flight?”

“No, have you?”

“Me neither. You want to?”

“Hell, yeah!”


Just like that, Friday night, we met at Incheon International Airport with our backpack, sleeping bag, running shoes and obviously- Passport. Just the simple act ‘Going to the airport’ makes me really happy. Destination: Unknown, but I knew I will go to some place. I remember how happy I was just sitting in the airport with my bag, writing email with my Mac.


Dangly-Gypsy Juno
Gypsy Juno


And Tibbetts arrived..

Where to? We were looking at the flight schedules. So many exciting places! Flight leaves the night we were there to…

LA, Dubai, Cebu, Manila, KL, Taipei….

Well, LA and Dubai might be too much for our 4 days trip, so we’ve decided to go for either Cebu or Manila. Here’s our conversation to check out counter lady:


“Do you have any last minute flight? We would like to buy them.”

“What? You can buy tickets but it will be really expensive.”

“Why? Isn’t that a left over? Don’t you do sale to fill the seat?”

“I don’t know what you mean but you can buy tickets but it will be really expensive. Would you like to buy them?”

“How much?”

“More than 750,000 won (USD 750) for Cebu.”

“Oh, nooooo…..”


We did the identical conversation over and over again with Manila, KL, and other possible destinations. And thought, this is weird, why nobody understood the term ‘last minute flight’? At that moment, we found a group of flight attendances of Air Asia Airline. They probably should know, right? But reaction we got was just about the same as others. Apparently it doesn’t exist in Asia or at least Korea, I started to think.

We were wandering.. more than before. Just walk back and forth of this beautiful airport. Information centre was closed, and a lot of airline offices were empty. Well, it was after 9pm, so good for them. Someone who’s more directly involved with airline- that was the person we were looking for, and we found one!

M.Cem Yazici from Turkish Airlines was kind enough to deal with our spontaneous plans. He confirmed our theory. He said there’s no last minute ticket policy anywhere in Korea. He said they don’t do it. Logically, I didn’t and still don’t understand why though. Isn’t it better to sell left over tickets cheap rather than fly with empty seats? Same fuel and same flight! Even if the ticket sells as ‘last minute’ but it doesn’t mean that person who buy won’t go through security or anything. If they are concerning about terror related matters, I don’t think terrorists would buy last minute tickets!

While everyone we talked to gave us ‘crazy girls’ eyes, he was up for our spontaneous plan. He even gave us many other choices to try in the morning. I didn’t know Guam was so close!


Consequently, our plan didn’t go through as we thought but we’ve learned a valuable lesson. Don’t ever try spur of the moment trip starts at the airport in Korea. Do one with wheels, not wings.


So.. what did we do after? Regardless, we had an amazing weekend. Not overseas but we traveled with wheels and traveled through west coast of Korea. Check out my latest Video post about our camping trip and Flickr album: Runaway Duo Part 1. More update… coming soon.


With a nice Turkish man at Incheon Airport
Special Thanks to Mr.Yazici!


Have you ever done this kind of trip? Spur of the moment, grab flights to unknown destination. If you did, please share with me!




34 thoughts on “The Secret of Last Minute Flight Tickets in Korea”

  1. Sounds like quite an adventure…almost! 😀 I don’t think you can get last minute tix in Australia either – I had a flight from Melbourne to Sydney cancelled and I went to the counter of another airline to ask, and they wanted $700 (I originally paid $25) to get me on a flight that day! Insane.

  2. I’m with you- this makes NO sense. This is why airlines aren’t making any money… they are flying empty planes and turning down money!!! craziness!

    1. Right? And they charge us more cause they don’t make enough money. Ridiculous… well as travelers, we have to use their services so hopefully they will make their policy more customer friendly!!

  3. Interesting story indeed! Such impromptu and last minute travel plans.. so exciting! Even though you didn’t manage to fly anywhere, it was still a nice and valuable lesson to learn! 🙂

    1. Yes it was really a valuable lesson for me. And quite sad too. The weekend in general was super fun, but sad to discover not so pleasant news! 🙂

  4. I have to say that I haven’t done one. In the US they do deals on Tuesdays for last minute flights. Typically these have to be bought by Thursday or Friday to fly on Friday or Saturday. I know people do fly standby but I’ve never done it.

    1. Really? That’s good to hear! Yes, I was with an American friend, and she said there’s a deal in America! I really want that to happen in somewhere in Asia too. We wanted to do standby as well but there wasn’t any.

  5. Tried to do the same thing from Bangkok, Thailand. I asked about last minute flights to Canada and he said they don’t exist. Did some research, yes Europe and US are some of the only places that offer last minute or “stand by” tickets. Other than that, flying with less people meas less fuel usage therefore reduced costs, not to mention food and drink consumption.

    1. Right, parts of Europe and US, that’s what I thought. But I think this is a great way to encourage people to travel. Well, not every travelers are aiming for standby tickets but it is definitely one way! All the airline businesses are just too complicated to tell, but I think that would be a great idea.

  6. I’ve done standby flights but base on a ticket that I got for a later time , if you get what I am saying. Never showed up with no ticket and just tried my luck! this it’s the same in KL. very expensive;)

    1. Yeah, I think AirAsia people were from KL, and clearly they don’t know the process. Shame! If budget airlines such as AirAsia does standby tickets, it will be much better for their sale too!

  7. What a helpful ticket agent! I don’t think this exists in the US either… Last summer I arrived at the airport and they didn’t have a record of my flight. It would have cost me thousands of dollars to book the domestic flight through them. The tourism board that was sponsoring my trip went on Travelocity and booked the same flight for about $300, right there. If I actually booked though the ticket agent, the last minute flight would have been many times that amount!

    1. Phew that’s a lot! I thought every airport or airline at US does standby or last minute tickets. Frankly, I don’t understand many parts of their policy or how they work. Just so complicated and secretive! I’m sure they have all valid reasons for it, but sometimes it is really frustrated as a customer.

  8. Nice post there Juno!

    I’ve often thought about this too! In Bangkok I asked around but was being given crazy prices. Strangely in Europe I found some good flights a long time ago doing this. I think they called them “Standby” flights. You basically go to an airline, with a flight to somewhere, and ask to be put on standby. If they are underbooked, they give a cheap ticket.

    But, you always need to ask first!

  9. I have never done this, but I have always suspected it wouldn’t work, especially in the US. You would think any open seats available the day of a flight would be practically given away. The airline system is entirely too complicated for me to understand.

    1. Yeah? I’ve heard there are number of stand by or last minute tickets in the US. I guess it’s different for different regions.
      And yes, I think so too. All the airline businesses are just so damn complicated to understand. All the schedule changing, something we “Can’t” do without any specific reasons..

  10. Sadly, I suspect this will become more the norm in the future. Airlines are so hell-bent on making money they’d rather fly with an empty seat than sell it for less than they think it’s worth.

    1. Sad indeed. Logically, now more and more people travel, so lots of airlines or other travel-related companies are more open to opportunities but I guess that’s just us!

  11. you really make me smile. Love this post, because I can sort of see you in my head talking to all these people about getting a flight at the airport. Love your attitude and positive outlook.

    1. Thanks Michael for really sweet words! I think I am quite a positive person and hope to stay this way. And Yes! I was talking to everyone about the secret of Korea!! 🙂 Glad you can hear that!

  12. Hi Juno,

    I liked your idea, but as you found out it…it won’t fly. Last minute walk up fares do not exist in the US either. And I think you’re confusing them with standby and short notice sale fares. Sale fares may be available on a very limited basis on short notice (3-4 days) before a weekend for flights on that weekend. But walk up fares like what you tried in Incheon are not available in the US either.

    You can Google, “airline revenue management system” or “airline revenue optimization” for more information. Basically the airlines believe that offering such walk up fares will decrease their total revenue and increase uncertainty in filling their seats because passengers will wait until the last minute to book their tickets.

    I’m not as familiar with Europe, but I’m 90% certain they don’t have low walk up fares either.

  13. Love this post, because I can sort of see you in my head talking to all these people about getting a flight at the airport. Click here to cancel reply.

  14. awww, hey girl! thanks for your post. i wanted to do a spontaneous trip tomorrow too and was trying very hard to see if last minute deals actually exist. apparently not =\
    sigh. there goes my long weekend!
    but at least u tried and had fun in different way!

  15. Sadly, I feel your pain, Juno. Although I’m old enough to remember that Standby (e.g. cheap, last minute) tickets most certainly DID EXIST in the whole world, I have to agree with Jax above that they seemed to have moved to a more efficient (for their profit, not for fuel nor their carbon footprint) model, which basically reasons thusly: “If someone comes to the airport, they are going to be more desperate to buy a ticket than someone at a travel agency in the city- so they should pay full or above full price”.
    Of course, your reasoning is perfectly logical, and even though they dont (yet) have to pay for their HUGE carbon footprint, the eventual scarcity of petroleum and rising oil prices may eventually force them to abandon this mercenary business approach (yes, even the backwards Air Asia model) and return to the ‘free market’ model.
    Until then, keep looking for those deals! they are out there! I have a feeling that there is still a big impetus to fill up airplanes in Korea, but the large megatravel corporations typically buy ALL the tickets during the mass exodus periods (Top travel is the culprit) then resell them on to smaller affiliated travel agencies. Sometimes, one of these smaller ones gets stuck and will advertise ‘same week’ specials…a few years ago I got a round trip , 5 day, 4 night 4 star hotel ticket for 200,000 won. Naturally I stayed the four nights, then missed the flight back, moved out to a cheaper hotel of course….Score!

  16. HEY!
    Well thanks for the knowledge! I was thinking about doing just this On the Lunar New Year holiday because so many places seem to be already booked or expensive. Too bad Korea doesn’t have this. It seems like such a great location to run off, spur of the moment to another nearby Asian Country. Oh well. Either way appreciate your advice and admire your adventurous spirit!

  17. I totally agree, don’t ever try spur of the moment trip starts at the airport in Korea. Do one with wheels, not wings. Have you tried the adventure travel app for hopupon.com for cheap flights? It adds stopover(s) on to your journey and saves you money

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