Delta and Korean Air Sign Trans-Pacific Joint Venture Agreement

Jun 29, 2017

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Last week, Delta and Korean Air deepened their 17-year partnership by tying a financial knot: a trans-pacific joint venture agreement. The two companies first became friends in 2000 as founding members of the SkyTeam Alliance. They announced their engagement this March via a memorandum of understanding.

The relationship hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In October 2015, tensions grew when Korean Air started limiting partner access to award seats. It’s improved more recently with Korean Air now allowing travelers to book SkyTeam awards online, starting in December 2016.

Proud parents (Delta CEO) Ed Bastian and (Korean Air Chairman) Y.H. Cho both are excited about the road skies ahead. Cho is calling the move “good for travelers, our companies and our countries,” while Bastian is hailing it as a “world-class partnership that will offer more destinations, outstanding airport facilities and an unmatched customer experience on the trans-Pacific.”

Delta and Korean Air infographic-1

This isn’t Delta’s first attempted relationship with an Asian airline. In 2011, with United shacking up with ANA, Delta tried to woo Japan Airlines away from its longtime alliance member American Airlines. In the end, JAL’s stuck with American. At the time, Delta had already had a JV agreement in place with Air France-KLM and Alitalia over the Atlantic and Virgin Australia over the Pacific.

What does the joint venture mean for travelers? Not too much, as most of the benefits of the JV are behind the scenes. The two companies will be able to coordinate flight schedules, pricing, collaborate at airports and “share costs and revenues on flights within the scope of the joint venture.”

The biggest impact on travelers is increased Delta codeshares on Korean Air flights. This can be especially important for those working toward Delta elite status, as Korean Air flights currently don’t earn any Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) or Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD):

Delta Korean flight chart earning

This isn’t the final step quite yet. While the two companies have signed the paperwork, the marriage will still require government approval.

Update 11/17/2017: The companies received US Department of Transportation (DOT) approval of this joint venture. Now, the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport needs to sign off for the JV for it to proceed.

Featured image courtesy of Delta.

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