Delta Tries to Take Seoul

I recently had a business trip to Shanghai and the by far the best price option was on Delta via their newish Detroit-Seoul nonstop.

It would be natural for the onward connection to be on SkyTeam partner Korean Air however that priced about $2,000 more (essentially as a separate business ticket) than Delta’s apparent new preferred Korean partner, Asiana, one-way, and SkyTeam partner China Southern, on the return to Seoul. China Southern is also on Delta’s list of discarded Asian partners, that segment I had in economy Q class and earned nothing.

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

So how is Delta managing at becoming Korean?

Delta does have a serviceable bibimbap for the breakfast meal. Dinner has a Korean option as well. No ginseng tea or any other Korean touches. Korean-speaking flight attendants for announcements. I don’t know Korean to tell if the Korean is elegant or not. For Chinese, Delta generally hires flight attendants with excellent, standard Mandarin while United has pseudo-Mandarin by way of Newark. That makes a big imgage difference to Chinese travelers. I guess it may be similar for Korean.

Delta Bibimbop

Arriving in Seoul I was surprised to see Korean Air still helping Delta. Ladies with their iconic sky blue scarfs were doing everything for Delta, from meeting arriving planes to managing gates and boarding. I saw one Delta uniform on the ground.

ICN Delta Check-in

Lounge of course is Korean.

Korean Air ICN Councourse Lounge

Connecting flights? Delta has none.

Hard to see where Delta is going with this other than two arrogant companies having a tiff. I wish they would kiss and make up.

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7 Comments on "Delta Tries to Take Seoul"

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Rapid Travel Chai

@Jamie – good point, the plate was not ideal. Korean Air and Asian use bowls. The rice is always in a separate bowl.


Does the bibimbap from airlines always come deconstructed like that? I’ve never had it on a plane, but it seems like it would be hard to eat off of what looks like a plate.

“Delta’s apparent new preferred Korean partner, Asiana..” Can you clarify? Are you stating Asiana is a Partner Airline with Delta? I do not think you are serious. Delta’s website (below), does not list Asiana and a general websearch shows no partnership. Asiana is in Star Alliance. Regarding ICN ground staff, from what I have observed, Asiana handles the Star Alliance flights and Korean handles Skyteam. Regarding another Comment on booking KE on DL miles, a few months ago I booked a coach award IAD-MNL, BKK-IAD. But in general, I find booking KE flights on to Asia to be… Read more »
Rapid Travel Chai
@Whynotgo – Yes, I was joking. The Delta + Asina fare appeared on all the search engines I tried plus my corporate Amex Travel one. Delta + Korean Air would not even price for me without forcing it. It struck me as an absurd example of the distance Delta and Korean Air are putting between each other, yet as you note, Delta is happy to avail itself of Korean Air’s services on the ground in Seoul. Connecting Delta to Asiana was quite a hike with the packed train, and required a trip to the right transfer counter, which of all… Read more »

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. Has anyone been able to find any business class availability on any KE flight for the next year?

Rapid Travel Chai

@Jim – thanks for the catch, I should not mess that one up.

@Craig – I have not hunted for Korea awards too much recently, I did have one case where NYC-ICN seemed impossible, however ORD-ICN had some availability. Delta already had all those blanket blackout dates for Korean and it wouldn’t surprise me if both sides are making it harder to redeem.