SEOUL, South Korea — As if air travel did not have enough nuisances, some K-pop fans have invented a new one: They board planes just to get a closer look at their favorite stars and then disembark, canceling their flights just before the gate closes.
Screaming fans jostling each other to take a peek at South Korean K-pop stars have become a regular scene at airports across Asia. But recently, some have become bolder, booking first-class seats that get them near enough to snap pictures and ask for autographs in VIP lounges or aboard the planes themselves. They then leave the flight and cancel their ticket.
These fans have caused disruptions at several Asian airports recently, The move has angered passengers and airline officials alike: Security regulations require all passengers to leave the plane and repeat security checks whenever anyone voluntarily leaves a flight before takeoff.
On Saturday, a Korean Air flight from Hong Kong to Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul, was delayed for an hour because three fans boarded to get a glimpse at the boy band Wanna One. About 360 other passengers also had to leave the plane with their carry-on luggage.
Korean Air said in a statement on Tuesday that it had seen 35 such incidents at Incheon this year, adding that the number would amount “to hundreds if all airlines are included.”
The airline said that it would increase financial penalties in an effort to fight the practice.
Tickets that are not used are generally refundable, and Korean Air currently charges “no-show” penalties of 50,000 to 120,000 won, or $44 to $106.
Beginning Jan. 1, Korean Air said, passengers who cancel some international bookings after going through the departure process will be charged an additional 200,000 won.
The carrier said the increase was necessary because of “recent chaos.”
Airlines based in North America and Europe offer some refundable fares, which tend to be the most expensive, but most tickets are nonrefundable.
There have been a few publicized cases of people booking tickets that can be refunded or changed without charge to gain access to airlines’ executive lounges without ever flying. In 2014, Lufthansa won a court judgment against a man who had used that trick 36 times to eat dinner in its lounges.
Most carriers have policies prohibiting the purchase of a ticket that the buyer does not intend to use, and some have adopted software designed to weed out scammers.