Delta & Korean Kiss and Make Up MOU

Delta and Korean Air today signed a MOU of their intent to form a joint venture.

MOUs, agreements in principle to do a real agreement later, are a bigger thing in corporate East Asia than in the US. The typical MOU lays out general principles, not solid details. It is a chance for executives to publicly sign something.

Delta Korean MOU

Delta-Korean MOU Signing, photo courtesy: Delta

The joint press release (Delta’s version here, Korean’s version here) highlights three focus areas:

  • The intent to create a fully integrated trans-Pacific joint venture with both airlines sharing the costs and revenues on flights and coordinating schedules for seamless, convenient connections.
  • A combined network serving more than 290 destinations in the Americas and more than 80 in Asia, providing customers of both airlines with more travel choices than ever before.
  • Enhanced frequent flyer benefits, providing customers of both airlines the ability to earn and redeem miles on Delta’s Sky Miles and Korean Air’s SKYPASS programs.

Delta and Korean have been at loggerheads for several years. Two stubborn, prideful corporate cultures. Currently, Delta SkyMiles members do not earn any elite qualifying miles when flying Korean.

Korean is my wife’s favorite airline. Economy class long-haul is pleasant, with some of the best economy class food in the skies. Their business class is great. First class appears hard to differentiate from business class.

Delta needs a new Asia hub with Tokyo-Narita receding and Seattle not in Asia. When JAL was last flailing, Delta unsuccessfully attempted to lure them to SkyTeam. With Japan’s two major airlines in other alliances, Delta is looking elswhere.

Delta’s investment in China Eastern is focused on the China market, which is prudent with the difficulty of transiting Chinese airports, and China’s awful air traffic control delays. I write this from Shanghai, where, while improving, China Eastern and Shanghai Pudong Airport have a long way to go before being user-friendly global experiences.

Korean’s hub at Seoul-Incheon Airport is justifiably lauded as one of the world’s best airports.

Two cheers to Delta and Korean from my wife and I!

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