Delta and Korean Escalate Their Fight

Delta has made it clear that it wants a bigger piece of the Hollywood crowd’s business. What’s the best way to do it? Start acting like a Hollywood-type and get into an ugly public spat. It’s only a matter of time before the paparazzi show up, right?

The very public fight between Delta and Korean has continued to escalate. The only question is… will they reconcile or are they headed to splitsville?

The fight apparently began when Delta tried to push its SkyTeam partner into joining a joint venture. It’s believed Korean wasn’t interested. So, as the story goes, Delta started to react.

Delta Korean Air Fight

The first public display of problems came when Delta announced that no travel on Korean Air-marketed flights would earn elite qualifying miles or bonus miles. Considering Korean Air is a founding member of SkyTeam and one of the largest foreign airlines operating in the US, this was a big deal. But travelers could still book a Delta codeshare on Korean flights and get their elite-qualifying miles.

There was one problem with that scheme. Buying a ticket on the Delta codeshare was often more expensive than booking directly with Korean. So it was hard to justify paying more just for the miles. But don’t worry about that. The airlines have gone and fixed that problem for us.

No, no. They didn’t equalize fares. They just started to unwind the codeshare so you don’t have a choice.

Korean started things off earlier this summer by pulling its code off of 97 Delta routes within the Americas. So you could fly from Seoul to Atlanta on Korean but you couldn’t connect on to, say, Ft Lauderdale on a Korean code. Most of the cities affected (59, in fact) were out of Atlanta, but there were also cuts in other hubs. This may seem surprising considering that Korean is ramping up in Atlanta with an A380 and has a lot of seats to fill, but I guess the time had come to fire a warning shot.

Delta upped the game even further. On August 21, it was revealed that Delta would begin flying from Seattle to Incheon every day beginning next June. That fits with Delta’s Seattle growth strategy, but it’s quite a poke at Korean and its daily flight in the very same market.

But why wait all the way until next June to start inflicting pain? At the same time this was announced, Delta cut some of its own codesharing on Korean. As of last week, you can no longer buy a Delta ticket on the Korean Air flights to Incheon from west coast markets. That means no Delta seats from LA, Vegas, San Francisco, or Seattle, and that means no elite qualifying miles if you fly those routes. [Update: Delta called me to confirm that the pulling of the codeshare this early was a mistake and it has been reinstated until June when the Seattle flight start.]

Now we just have to sit here and wait to see what’s next. Maybe these two need their own reality show. Or we could get Dr Phil to sit down with them and solve their problems on a primetime special.

One thing is clear. Delta can certainly benefit from Korean’s network, and I can understand why they’d want a joint venture. Meanwhile, Korean is huge in the US and should also want to benefit from Delta’s loyal base and connecting options. When both sides receive clear benefits from a relationship, you can only hope that they come to their sense and resolve their issues. But as we know, these fights don’t always end the way they should.

[Original taekwondo photo via Shutterstock]

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40 Comments on "Delta and Korean Escalate Their Fight"

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Jared Hanner
Member

Oneworld should call them up… AA just started flying from DFW to ICN right?

Don
Guest

Would JL allow KE in Oneworld? I had assumed that because JL was already there and Asiana was in Star that DL felt KE had nowhere else to go and that was why they were putting on the pressure.

Hans Mast
Member

JL + KE = NH + OZ, right? ;-)

Actually, more accurately:
JL + KE < NH + OZ + CA + BR

Also remember that currently it's:
OW: JL
ST: KE + CI
*A: NH + OZ + CA + BR

Technically you have CX and MH on the OW side, but they're getting pretty far south for gateway to Asia style flying. CZ is pretty far south and has one TPAC flight.

Cook
Guest

Ah… So why do either of them bother with SkyTeam?

TC99
Guest

Has Korean started to codeshare with B6? I am booked with Korean out of JFK to MNL via ICN, but to get to JFK from FLL, I was placed on B6. On the return, I fly thru ICN to ATL, then connect to MIA on AA. I haven’t put my Korean Skypass number on these flights so I am wondering if I need to enroll in different programs again.

hk
Guest

KE began to not sell any tickets combined with Delta’s domestic flights since 1 or 2 months ago.

Delta actually revived codeshare on west coast to ICN routes until early June 2014, until when SEA-ICN begins with its metal. Delta claims it was a minor technical error.

Nick Barnard
Member

Why is Korean not wanting to get into a JV with Delta? Beyond HA and AS it doesn’t seem that they have any other links to US carriers.

Also, I wonder if DL’s A330 purchase plays into this? From what I’ve heard these A330s are ideal for Pacific flights. If DL isn’t going to have a JV with Korean they’ll need more lift of their own over the Pacific.

Jason H
Guest
“Delta can certainly benefit from Korean?s network, and I can understand why they?d want a joint venture. Meanwhile, Korean is huge in the US and should also want to benefit from Delta?s loyal base and connecting options.” Are any numbers available on how many people actually connect between DL and KE in ICN? For domestic Korean flights, sure, but if flying to other international cities, I’m not sure if KE through ICN actually is necessary. The most important cities in Asia have DL service anyways; within China there is MU and CZ serving many more cities than KE; for Japan… Read more »
Bravenav
Guest
I imagine the bulk of DL/KE connecting traffic connects in the US. Be that as it may, ICN is ideally located for connecting to Asia from the US. It helps to look at a globe. US flights come into ICN from the North, actually around the West side of North Korea. From there, the secondary Japanese population centers are to the Southeast (Osaka, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, etc.), and the bulk of the Chinese cities are to the Southwest. With KE serving about two dozed Chinese airports, why would I ever want to subject myself to CZ or MU? KE also has… Read more »
Bravenav
Guest

oops..dozen Chinese airports, not dozed.

David SF eastbay
Member

Will someone tell the children to get out of the sandbox and stop fighting.

Since Star is so well covered in Asia over Oneworld and Skyteam, you would think DL wouldn’t be ticking off KE so much.

Delse
Guest

Perhaps this is the future of the large global alliances, or the unbundling of those alliances. As the legacy network carriers get healthier and purchase newer aircraft, they will be able to provide their own Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific lift and not have to share revenue with the global alliance carriers.

Delse
Guest

Perhaps this indicates the future of the large global alliances…or the unbundling of those relationships. As the legacy network carriers get healthier, they can buy new aircraft and provide their own t ATL and t PAC lift rather than share the revenue with carriers like Korean.

JB
Guest

It may more more difficult to track but I wonder if KE has cut their award availability with Delta awards. I tried to book some seats recently and saw almost no availability.

SidelineObserver
Guest

I’m glad to see someone had the stones to stand up and tell Delta to pound sand.One simply does not demand a JV with a founding member of your alliance like they are a second tier carrier.Yes, I know DL is also a founding member, but that still doesn’t change their bully tactics backfiring in their faces.

Good.

Hans Mast
Member
Actually, Korean has very little to gain/lose from the alliance, but DL has a lot to gain/lose. KE already has extensive through-fare agreements with all the US airlines: if you fly KE in/out of ORD, you can take AA or UA to almost any city they serve, all with a KE throughfare at dirt cheap prices. The same scenario is repeated all over the US. Here are some permissible routings on various routes on KE through-fares. I chose the first three I thought of at random. It looks like they’ve scaled back (or eliminated) domestic UA flights since I was… Read more »
Hans Mast
Member

JL + KE = NH + OZ, right? ;-)

Actually, more accurately:
JL + KE < NH + OZ + CA + BR

Also remember that currently it's:
OW: JL
ST: KE + CI
*A: NH + OZ + CA + BR

Technically you have CX and MH on the OW side, but they're getting pretty far south for gateway to Asia style flying. CZ is pretty far south and has one TPAC flight.

Jason H
Guest

ST also has MU with several Transpacific flight

myra
Guest

CF, two questions:
(1) who do you think will cave?
(2) who do you think should cave (as in whose demands are more unreasonable)?
Curious to hear your thoughts!

Ashley
Guest

According to Delta’s homepage, customers flying on KE marketing cannot earn Elite/MQM from 1Sep13. Then, is that true we can still get miles from Delta on KE marketing flights?

ptahcha
Guest

To clarify – you still earn miles, but not elite qualifying miles. Granted, it looks like DL cut the MQM down to 50% for eligible coach fares, so there was somewhat of a cut already. The biggest hit would be the business and first class cabin ticket buyers.

Trent880
Guest

What. A. Mess. DL’s newest transpacific hub flow is almost completely controlled by an airline in bed with AA over which DL has no control, DL and KE are fighting over a network where DL has little leverage, ATL/DTW are tapped out to Asia, NRT is sliding down a long decline, and DL has shown little interest in JFK-Asia.

eduardoaguilar83
Member
White smoke? DELTA Resumes Korean Air Seoul ? US West Coast Codeshare Service from Sep 2013 by JL Update at 0600GMT 06SEP13 As per 06SEP13 GDS timetable/inventory dispaly, DELTA has resumed codeshare service with Korean Air on US West Coast ? Seoul Incheon sectors, at least until 01JUN14 inclusive. DELTA?s ?DL? code once again appears on following Korean Air service during (the weekend of) 01SEP13 schedule update. Seoul Incheon ? Las Vegas Seoul Incheon ? Los Angeles Seoul Incheon ? San Francisco Seoul Incheon ? Seattle DELTA removed its ?DL? code on routes listed above during (the weekend of) 24/25AUG13… Read more »
LAX-ICN
Guest

Delta is making good money and they know they have a good product, but their growing arrogance is going to bite them. There is only so much customers will take getting caught up in these games.

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[…] The Cranky Flier has the current state of play in Delta and Korean Escalate Their Fight. […]

Craig
Guest

Hi Cranky,

I just learned of this post through Rapid Travel Chai.

Perhaps the tension between Korean Air and Delta explains why there is virtually no award availability whatsoever on KE flights using Delta Skymiles, something I find extremely frustrating. This has been the case now for at least half a year.

What do you think? Has anyone been able to find any business class availability on any KE flight for the next year? Should I kiss goodbye the possibility of Delta award redemptions on KE?

trackback

[…] write summary not he deterioration of the benefits and code shares between DL and KE. http://crankyflier.com/2013/09/05/de…e-their-fight/ If you're flying a lot of interport/intra-Asia then it seems like DL is NOT the way to go for the […]

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