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.