The good news & bad news from this week’s Korean Airlines / Delta joint venture roll out.

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First the really good news. Take a look at the chart above. This is a HUGE change from the old one that gave you nothing when it comes to elite points as well as MQD or medallion qualify dollars for booking a flight on the Korean Air website. All I can say is, it is about time as punishing the founding Skyteam member with zero earnings has been an embarrassment for years. And the numbers are looking very good and includes the below on

“Class Exclusions: If a class is not listed, no miles are earned. No miles are earned for Award Travel.

Other Exclusions: Accrual is not eligible for KE flights 9000-9999

(1) Partner-marketed flights will earn miles based on a percentage of distance flown* as determined by the fare class paid. Unless otherwise noted, mileage credit is only applicable to SkyTeam-marketed flights operated by a SkyTeam member airline. Mileage credit is not applicable to a SkyTeam-marketed flight operated by another airline.

(2) Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) are used as a counter to determine SkyMiles Medallion status. Flights and itineraries eligible for MQMs will earn a minimum of 500 MQMs per segment.

(3) Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) apply to Medallion qualification. Flights marketed by the partner will earn MQDs based on a percentage of distance flown* as determined by the fare class paid.

(4) Medallion Mileage Bonus is based on Base Miles earned: Diamond – 120%; Platinum – 80%; Gold – 60%; Silver – 40%

*For purposes of mileage credit, “distance flown” means the calculated distance between origin and destination, as determined by Delta in its sole discretion, regardless of the actual distance traveled on any individual flight.” –

These point earnings are very similar to other partners like AeroMexico and again this is great news for us who want to earn a ton of points based on the distance (a percentage of distance, that is) we fly. It adds one more opportunity to fly a nice partner airline as well as mileage runs to knock out the 15k MQD spend number for much less (and clearly avoid the bat crazy ¼ million Delta Amex MQD exempt number as well).

Now on to the other not so good news on Global upgrades with Korean. Yes, we can do them but almost NONE of us will. So this is like a gift of a holiday fruitcake that goes right into the garbage can. Notice the wording on for “GLOBAL UPGRADE TERMS & CONDITIONS” about Korean Air:

“Valid on Delta-marketed, Korean Air-operated flights for use globally on Delta’s published fares booked in Y or B class to Korean Air’s Z class, or booked in M class to Korean Air’s O class.” –

Well swell. Unlike KLM or AeroMexico (and Delta clearly) that allow us to buy all but the cheapest Basic E fare and use our certs with Korean you will be paying much more, most of the time, for these higher fare classes. Likely, the only folks who will likely use this are those who have an employer paying for any coach fare but not business class.

Overall this week’s news is still great news for those who still care about status. It would have been nice if that great news had been followed up with more great news on the redemption side equal to that of other Delta partners. – Rene


  1. Other great news is that Korean, Delta, and AF/KLM all operate from the brand new Terminal 2 at ICN including a much improved Prestige lounge plus three Priority Pass lounges. The terminal is very impressive. If you have to connect in Asia, ICN is the place.

  2. NO bump for Premium Economy going through ICN? I have flown through there several times this year from HK and the Public Transfer lounge was way better than the Sky Team lounge. Way more room, space and a lot quieter in comparison to the Sky Team lounges that were crammed with people. Best place to be for a 5 hour layover (which they need to fix) and make shorter.

  3. @Rene, do you know if DL-KE get immunity from anti Trust laws (price fixing) like DL-AF-KLM do? In most cases KE pricing has beaten DL’s pricing by a lot. I wonder if we will continue to see the big price savings on KE?

  4. @Rene, I just did a bunch of price checks, and indeed the KE prices INCREASED to match Delta’s exactly. Matching Delta’s prices exactly is what we see with DL/KLM/AF. KE’s prices used to be considerably lower than Delta’s. I don’t know how these new prices which match each other to within a dollar can be legal without anti trust immunity. Sad.

  5. I used to be able to book J/Z fares on KE out of ORD for around $3-3.6k a couple weeks out. It was even less if it were booked with KE instead of Delta. Now, it’s like over $8k. This is pretty much on par with Delta’s monopolistic pricing at DTW. It used to be cheaper to position flights away from DTW. The lowest fares I could see out of ORD were at least for $4k several months out. Bottom line: Post JV, fares to ICN on KE or DL are 10-30% more.

    KE has a great product and could be had booked as a Delta codeshare reasonably if you route out of a competitive hub. Now, I’m not sure that’s the case. What’s the benefit of the JV then?

    I’m wondering how KE will fill its planes with these higher fares. Unlike DL, KE is not as disciplined on capacity. Their planes are generally very new and very big. All of the US routes are on big wide bodies like the A380, 747-8i, and 777-300ER. And most of them are to airports in major US cities with lots of foreign competition.

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