Delta is launching its longest route from Portland later this year
Despite the pandemic, Delta is planning to strengthen its West Coast network with a new long-haul route.
On Tuesday, the Atlanta-based carrier announced that it'll begin flying between Portland (PDX), Oregon, and Seoul Incheon (ICN) on Sept. 9, with three-weekly year-round flights. At 5,289 miles, this will be Delta's longest flight from Portland, clocking in at over 11 hours eastbound and nearly 13 hours in the westbound direction.
The service will be operated by the carrier's 234-seat Airbus A330-200, outfitted with 34 reverse-herringbone business-class pods, 32 extra-legroom Comfort+ seats and 168 standard coach seats. You'll find the full schedule below.
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The new flight is already loaded in Delta's schedule and round-trip fares start at $950 in coach and jump to $5,200 in biz. Round-trip SkyMiles awards start at 78,000 miles for coach and 240,000 for biz, not a bad deal considering the carrier's often sky-high award fares.
Launching a new long-haul route nowadays is a break from the pandemic-era network planning strategy of boosting flights to leisure-oriented destinations, like national parks and beaches. South Korea requires a mandatory two-week quarantine in a government-designated facility for visiting Americans. Plus, the success of many international routes relies on business travelers, who have yet to return to the skies in meaningful numbers.
As such, Delta notes that the Sept. 9 launch date is still subject to change, depending on "evolving travel restrictions, government authorization and demand."
Despite the current challenges, adding flights to Seoul is on Delta's priority list. In its first-quarter earnings call, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: "When you think about China and Japan and many of the other Pacific markets, the one market that we will be spending a lot of time trying to support is Korea with our partner at Korean."
Delta and Korean Air have a transpacific joint venture, so it makes sense that the carrier is trying to funnel its Asia-bound traffic through Seoul, where flyers can then connect onto a Korean Air flight to over 80 destinations. According to the carrier, "the route will offer the fastest connection from PDX to the largest corporate and leisure markets in the region."
Interestingly, Delta also serves Tokyo Haneda from Portland, with service slated to resume on Oct. 30, per Cirium schedules. The carrier confirmed to TPG that it doesn't currently have any changes planned for the HND route, though it's possible that Seoul eventually replaces Tokyo as Delta's primary gateway to Asia.
More from TPG: Sayonara, Narita: The Rise and Fall of Delta’s Tokyo Hub
As for its transatlantic ambitions, Delta is plans to resume daily service to Athens, Greece (ATH), from New York-JFK on May 28, as originally planned. On Monday, Greece reopened to Americans who can present a vaccination certificate or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Full schedule for PDX-ICN is below:
Delta Flight 278 Portland (PDX) to Seoul (ICN) departing 12:35 p.m., arriving 5:05 p.m. (+1 day)
Delta Flight 277 Seoul (ICN) to Portland (PDX) departing 7:30 p.m., arriving 2:25 p.m.