Korean Air denies interest in Japan Airlines
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Delta Air Lines closes in on Korean Air JV to boost Asia network, hedge China Eastern partnership
Delta Air Lines is rekindling its partnership with Korean Air. Delta has previously used heavy-handed tactics – cutting off codeshares, nearly eliminating reciprocal frequent flyer benefits otherwise enshrined in their SkyTeam alliances – to bully Korean Air into a JV. The attraction to Delta is a JV partner in Asia, which American and United have long enjoyed.
Korean Air, until recently, has failed to see the benefits of a partnership with Delta, which has a smaller trans-Pacific footprint. Although Korean Air felt the damage from all but losing its North American partner, what Delta needed to give Korean Air was time. It has helped that Delta is no longer pursuing a hub in Tokyo – a rival to Korean Air and Seoul.
A deeper Delta-Korean Air partnership, as hinted at by Delta management in Dec-2016, starts with both feeling competitive trans-Pacific pressure but jointly holding a position of strength, with a JV slightly smaller than United-ANA's, but much larger than American-JAL. Korean Air brings wider coverage to Southeast Asia, as well as North American gateways.
Delta-Korean Air joint venture creates trans-Pacific's second largest bloc. Cathay, EVA under threat
The unprecedented aviation market growth between Asia and North America is forcing airlines to re-evaluate their core strategy and reassess who is a competitor and who could be a partner. It seems probable that Delta Air Lines and Korean Air will form a joint venture, potentially making them the second largest trans-Pacific bloc.
The next two largest airlines without a deep partnership, EVA Air and Cathay Pacific, are having to confront significant change, without the support of partners. Delta-Korean Air brings United-ANA its closest rival yet, while the American-JAL JV – already smaller – needs bulking up.
Korean Air brings Delta a wider network in Asia than ANA or JAL offer to their respective JV partners, United and American. A Korean Air-Delta JV could result in more destinations and flights being added once they are able to sell jointly.