Why Delta’s return to China may include a stop in Seoul
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Delta Air Lines hopes to resume flights to China next month with plans to return to Shanghai. But the the airline is covering its bases and does not plan to offer a nonstop flight from the U.S., at least not initially.
In the face of quarantines for passengers arriving in China, all of Delta’s flights to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) will stop at Seoul Incheon (ICN), according to Cirium schedules. That stop, despite appearances, is not to improve connectivity for travelers, but instead to ensure that none of the carrier’s crews have to disembark in China.
“Because of the quarantine restrictions, we don’t want any of our crewmembers to stay in China,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told staff during a virtual town hall on Wednesday viewed by TPG. “By connecting over Seoul we can bring some passengers into China.”
Atlanta-based Delta will offer up to two daily flights between Seoul and Shanghai beginning June 3, Cirium schedules show. One flight will originate in Detroit (DTW) and the other in Seattle (SEA) with both flown on an Airbus A350-900 fitted with 306 seats, including 32 Delta One business class suites.
- DL285/284: outbound departs Seoul at 2:10 a.m. (all times local) and arrives Shanghai at 2:55 a.m., return departs Shanghai at 5 a.m. and arrives Seoul at 7:30 a.m.
- DL287/288: outbound departs Seoul at 4 a.m. and arrives Shanghai at 4:45 a.m., return departs Shanghai at 8 a.m. and arrives Seoul at 10:30 a.m.
Passengers transiting between international flights — even one on the same aircraft — often have to disembark and board again. In addition, Delta cannot sell tickets for travel between just Seoul and Shanghai — in other words, all passengers must begin or end their trips in the U.S.
The proposed schedule is subject to Chinese government approval. The status of this is unclear due to an ongoing tit-for-tat between China and the U.S. Department of Transportation over resuming flights.
Despite the plans to resume flights, people are not traveling to China in large numbers, Bastian told staff. However, he reiterated that the carrier wants to provide travelers with connectivity to the market that it suspended in February during the early days of the pandemic.
On May 19, United Airlines commercial chief Andrew Nocella said the carrier’s international flying — including its own plans to return to China — was “driven by cargo rather than passenger loads.” United hopes to resume nonstop flights between its Newark (EWR) base and Shanghai Pudong, and its San Francisco (SFO) base and both Beijing Capital (PEK) and Shanghai in June.
Delta’s plan to stop in Seoul enroute to Shanghai is a throwback to the Asia network it inherited from Northwest Airlines. Northwest connected many travelers flying between the U.S. and cities in Asia over a hub at Tokyo Narita (NRT) airport. Delta closed the Narita hub in March, shifting to either nonstop flights or a connections with its partner Korean Air over Seoul.
Shanghai is not the only destination where Delta is getting creative. Following the decision to retire its Boeing 777s, it will add a stop in Cape Town (CPT) on the return from Johannesburg (JNB) to Atlanta (ATL) in order to continue service to South Africa with an A350. The routes could begin as soon as October.
Under Delta’s initial plan to resume China flights, it scheduled nonstops to Shanghai from both Detroit and Seattle. Those flights have been replaced with the one-stop services via Seoul.
Featured image by GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees