The Delta & Korean Air Joint Venture Is Nearing Approval

Filed Under: Delta, Korean Air

This March, Delta and Korean Air announced their intention to form a joint venture on transpacific flights. This is quite a development for the two airlines. While they’re both part of SkyTeam, they’ve had the lowest level of cooperation possible within the alliance. As of now Delta SkyMiles members can’t even earn elite qualifying miles for travel on Korean Air. It sure makes you wonder what the point of an alliance even is.

Once the joint venture is approved, the two airlines will be able to align their schedules and fares. For all practical purposes, the two airlines will act as one on transpacific flights, and they’ll probably work hard to create as much “metal” neutrality as possible (this is something Delta is good about, as they’ve even made reciprocal upgrades possible on some of their joint venture partners). Furthermore, in anticipation of this joint venture, this past summer Delta launched daily flights between Atlanta and Seoul Incheon.

I know a lot of people have been wondering why Delta hasn’t updated their mileage earning for travel on Korean Air. That’s because up until now the joint venture hasn’t been approved. They don’t want to make these benefits available prior to the joint venture being approved, or else they can’t prove that approval of the joint venture is in the public’s best interest.

Well, it looks like progress has finally been made on this front. The US Department of Transportation has now approved the joint venture between Delta and Korean Air, which means the two airlines are one step closer to launching their joint venture.

Now all the two airlines are waiting for is approval from the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. It shouldn’t take much longer for that to happen, at which point I think it’s safe to assume that Korean Air will move from a “Group 4” SkyMiles partner to a “Group 1” partner, which is the “status” that all of Delta’s joint venture partners have.

As a reminder, here are the current Delta SkyMiles mileage earning rates for travel on Korean Air:

Ultimately I’m always torn on whether or not joint ventures are a good thing. On one hand, they’re typically good news as far as frequent flyer benefits go, especially for an airline like Delta, which severely limits mileage earning on partners they aren’t close with. At the same time, a joint venture is the equivalent of eliminating a partner, and leads to higher fares for consumers.

  1. So at the moment you can travel business class in Korea Air metal under KA flight number at a considerable discount for same metal under Delta flight number. I guess this will end. We will pay more and the only benefit will be Delta elite qualifying miles. Why is this good?

  2. There are many other advantages to consumers here than just miles that are a lot more practical to average fliers. For example it allows coordination of schedules and routes giving more options at more times during the day.

    Alternatively, as seen in the case of UA/LH for example, it can also sometimes mean one carrier will be dominant on a particular route which can limit the options for things like upgrades for the other carrier’s frequent fliers.

  3. If this happens, it will kill the last of Delta’s intra-Asia flights (Singapore, Manila, Saipan, Palau; Guam was already on the chopping block) with the exception of some Hawaii flights from Japan.

  4. This is universally bad for consumers. Prices increase as competition disappears, service deteriorates and on all competitive parameters, consumers lose out.

    Just look at what happened to NYC-LON with the should-be-illegal AA/BA et al. joint venture. Only now is order about to be restored thanks to LCCs finally getting into the long-haul business.

    AA should’ve gone under a long time ago, but collusion like this is why they’re still around. Open the US market to foreign airlines and do it fast. For consumers’ sake.

  5. Government involvement to destroy competition. And these turkeys complain about the ME3? This is a government subsidy in terms of limiting competition. Do not forget that the government first allowed the elimination of one competitor, i,e. Northwest. Now Delta just wants to eliminate the foreign competition by legalized collusion.

  6. I wonder if Korean Air will add a premium economy class if this joint venture goes through to match Delta’s Premium Select.

  7. How long do you think it will be before I can redeem my Delta miles for a Korean Air business class ticket to Asia from San Francisco?

  8. It was always weird seeing Korean Air under that unfavorable group status, despite being in the same alliance. Delta and their hullabaloos.

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