Korean Air is at last taking the plunge into strategic partnerships as it weighs accepting a deep partnership, even a joint venture and an equity stake, from "frenemy" Delta Air Lines. It will be the first major partnership for Korean Air and the Seoul Incheon hub, and will finally give Delta the Asian JV it has lacked.
Korean Air quietly bet the house on an Asia-North America transfer business, but now needs a friend as airlines in mainland China and elsewhere add rapid growth to the trans-Pacific. In the space of five years Cathay Pacific and Air Canada have overtaken Korean Air, while China's airlines have gone from being collectively smaller than Korean Air to nearly three times as large.
Delta has brought back Korean Air's codeshares and in a possible peace offering is giving Korean Air more codeshare access than ever before. Korean Air receives critical behind gateway feed, and a reminder of what more can be achieved with Delta as a friend. From having no codeshares in 2015, in 2017 Korean Air is now Delta's largest non JV codeshare partner.
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