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Delta and Korean Air to launch partnership on 1 May

Delta Air Lines and Korean Air will launch their planned joint venture on 1 May, meeting the tight deadline they set for implementation less than a month ago.

The SkyTeam Alliance carriers will launch the immunised partnership on routes between Asia and the USA, and beyond points in both regions, a notice filed with the US Department of Transportation on 23 April shows. It has a term of at least 10 years.

Delta and Korean Air will jointly plan capacity, pricing, revenue management, and sales, coordinate schedules, and offer reciprocal frequent flier benefits under the joint venture.

Executives for both carriers told FlightGlobal separately earlier in April that they hoped to launch the partnership in May, saying the first of the month was possible.

"We think this probably is the fastest implementation for a JV," said Steve Sear, president of international and executive vice-president of global sales at Delta, in the interview.

The tie-up will allow Delta and Korean Air to counter the immunised partnerships of American Airlines and Japan Airlines (JAL), and United Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) across the Pacific.

"I think [Seoul] Incheon is a much better airport to connect to Asia than [Tokyo] Narita is," said John Jackson, vice-president of marketing and sales for North and South America at Korean Air, in an interview. Incheon will be the primary connecting point for Delta and Korean Air into Asia, whereas Narita is the primary connecting point for both American and JAL, and United and ANA into the region.

Jackson cites the new terminal 2 at Incheon, which houses Korean Air, Delta and other SkyTeam carriers, that opened in January as a benefit.

"I think that's going to be the strength to us," he says.

Delta and Korean Air together have a 16% share of US-Asia capacity in the first half, compared to American-JAL with a 12.5% share and United-ANA with a 21% share, FlightGlobal Diio schedules show.

The carriers received South Korean approval for the joint venture at the end of March, and US approval in in November 2017.

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