Delta and Korean Agree to Transpacific Joint Venture

Mar 29, 2017

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Delta Air Lines and Korean Air have both been members of the SkyTeam alliance since 2000 when Aeromexico, Air France, Delta and Korean met in New York to officially to form the alliance. Since then, Delta Air Lines and Korean have continued to evolve their relationship — though, most of the time, it has remained tense in nature. But today, the two carriers announced that they’ve agreed to implement a joint venture arrangement to grow their combined transpacific network. The memorandum of understanding was signed yesterday and is subject to regulatory approvals.

According to the press release, the highlights of the agreement are:

  • The intent to create a fully integrated transpacific joint venture arrangement where both airlines share the costs and revenues on flights, they’ll also coordinate schedules for more seamless travel and connections
  • A combined network that serves more than 290 destinations in the Americas and more than 80 destinations in Asia — more options for travelers
  • More frequent flyer benefits so customers can earn and redeem miles with Delta’s SkyMiles and Korean’s SkyPass programs.

It’s not yet clear exactly how this will impact the earning and redeeming structure for both Korean and Delta’s programs. However, the new agreement will surely open up options for travelers who are looking to travel between the US and Asia. Last year, Delta announced that it’s resuming its Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN) service on June 3, 2017, and Korean Air has expressed interest in expanding its US route network. Korean currently serves Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Honolulu (HNL), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) and Washington, D.C. (IAD).

In the current SkyMiles chart, Korean is listed as a Group 4 partner (along with Alaska Airlines, Great Lakes Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and WestJet) which means that SkyMiles members can’t earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) on Korean flights, regardless of class of service. It’s likely, however, that we could see Korean’s classification for earning on Delta’s chart change very soon.

With this new transpacific joint venture, the two airlines are working together to bring more destinations to flyers. Overall, this is good news for Delta flyers, as they’ll now have more options to get between the US and Asia (pending regulatory approval). For the two carriers who have long been at odds, this signals a major thawing in the relationship which should ultimately be good for business while providing passengers more options to earn and redeem miles.

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