Change Your Altitude

Delta and Korean Air Announce Trans-Pac Joint Venture Details

I’ve long complained about the rift between SkyTeam carriers Delta Airlines (DL) and Korean Air (KE), for a number of reasons. The main one is SkyTeam’s lack of a decent carrier that services the Asia region. China Southern (CZ) and China Eastern (MU) have been known to leave a lot to be desired in terms of service, and well, KE is the only one worth flying Among SkyTeam’s Asian carriers. As a Delta Medallion though, buying a Korean Air ticket means 0 MQMs and limited redeemable mile earning options. The history of their icy relationship can get lengthy, so we’ll skip past the root cause, but a few months ago, the two founding SkyTeam made moves to suggest that they were on the road to reconciliation – with rumors circulating that a joint venture (JV) was on the way, before they finally signed one in March, right around the same time Delta started running their Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul (ICN) nonstop flight. It looks like the two are releasing more details of what that actually means.


The Scoop

According to a press release from Delta, the JV will include the following program updates:

  • Expanded codesharing in the trans-Pacific market
  • Joint sales and marketing initiatives in Asia and the United States
  • Colocation at key hubs with seamless passenger and baggage transit experience
  • Enhanced frequent flyer benefits, providing customers of both airlines the ability to earn and redeem miles on Delta’s SkyMiles and Korean Air’s SKYPASS programs
  • Increased belly cargo cooperation across the trans-Pacific

While no date for these changes have been announced, these will hopefully be timely with KE’s additional flights between ICN two Califrnia cities – Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

DL KE Infograph

Delta and Korean Air JV Infograph. Credit: Delta


The Takeaway

So what does this all mean for SkyTeam passengers? We’ll (hopefully) see the most impact in the following areas:

Expanded codesharing – more Korean Air operated flights marketed and sold by Delta(!). This is particularly key for now, since thanks to the incredibly bleak mileage earning opportunity on both sides when purchasing tickets sold by the other. This impacts Delta Medallions the most since there is no opportunity to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles or Dollars when purchasing a Korean Air marketed flight. The only way for a Medallion to earn Delta MQMs and MQDs is to fly on a Delta-marketed and ticketed flight. Expanded codeshare means more opportunity to earn elite-qualifying miles while flying on Korean Air (for now, at least – until they change the terms of the agreement). While Korean Air SKYPASS members don’t have to worry about elite-qualifying miles, more codeshares mean more opportunities to earn miles at a higher accrual rate.

Delta Korean Air Mileage Accrual Chart

Delta Accrual Chart for Korean Air

Earn and Redeem Miles between SKYPASS and SkyMiles programs – While it’s not 100% clear, we’ll possibly see a change to the accrual charts – meaning more miles could be earned, even when purchasing a ticket marketed by the other carrier (aka a Delta Medallion purchases a KE marketed and operated ticket – and earn MQMs on this ticket). I’m completely speculating here, but I’d love to see this. Based on their statement though, we’ll likely start seeing Korean Air operated flights show up as award flights when searching through Delta, and the same vice versa. 


Hopefully more specifics will start to surface soon. One this is for sure – Medallions, we are headed in the direction of better options for Asia!



Featured image credit: Delta

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