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Posts tagged seoul


This post may seem premature and to be clear, I have no inside information from Delta or the Port of Portland. This is simply a hypothesis.

With Delta’s newly announced joint venture with Korean Air it is becoming more and more likely that the Delta hub at Tokyo’s Narita Airport will be dismantled. For me it means that a great non-stop option to Tokyo PDX-NRT, will likely go away, or at least become Portland to Seoul.

But I am with Cranky Flier on his analysis.

This may be sad for those who liked having elevated service to Tokyo, but the vast majority of people, this new Korean relationship will be far more valuable. At the same time, Delta can continue to develop its relationship with China Eastern to further penetrate the Chinese market. China will likely become the most important air market in the world over time. While there are joint venture issues since the US and China don’t have open skies yet, Delta is now incredibly well positioned with both Korean and China Eastern offering tremendous penetration. Meanwhile, for American, China has been one of the most vexing problems, so it decided to do something about it.

As nice as having a non-stop option to Tokyo is, having a one-stop option to all over Asia is even better. The current Delta connections out of Narita are varied (Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, etc.) but mean that the airline has to dedicate aircraft and crews to a hub halfway across the world. Back in say the 1970s and 80s and really even into the 90s, having a hub in Tokyo made a lot of sense for airlines. Interline agreements, joint ventures, and airline alliances did not exist so if an airline wanted to carry passengers from a hub to a far off destination they needed all of their own resources available along the way. Today that model has changed. Airlines are leveraging partnerships to get passengers to destinations where they do not themselves fly. Delta, disappointed with the lack of Tokyo-Haneda slots that have been given out, is smart to reallocate the planes that currently fly in and out of Tokyo-Narita to places where it makes more sense (read, money).

While I will be sad to see a historic route go away, I love the idea of connecting in Seoul for other places in Asia. The airport is laid out well and Korean Air has a good reputation.

The unanswered question is, will a Japanese carrier like ANA or Japan Airlines approach PDX to offer a non-stop option to Narita or Haneda. With the new partnership between Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines, there is a case to be made that a Japan Airlines flight is a no-brainer. But my fondness of United and the Star Alliance would really love seeing an ANA 787 parked at PDX offering a non-stop to Haneda.

Korean Air - 777-200ER

Today is the big day, Korean Air is arriving from Seoul around 8:30am CT, bringing the first non-stop passenger service between Houston and the capital of South Korea. The flight is being operated by a Boeing 777-200 with three classes of service, first, business, and economy. It appears they will be featuring their new product on the route, the Kosmo suite in first and the Prestige sleeper seat in business, both of which are lie-flat seats. The economy seat is also a new product featuring audio and video on demand and power and USB ports available for each seat. The seat map below shows the layout of the cabin.

Korean Air 772 Seatmap

Korean Air has an extensive route network and gives Houstonians another great option for getting to Asia. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, while far from the city center, is a great airport for connections and offers plenty of amenities, including free shower rooms for transiting passengers. They also offer free tours of Seoul for transiting passengers, which is a great way to see a city rather than sitting an airport waiting for your connection.

I should note that Korean also flies into Gimpo International Airport, the smaller, closer to the city airport, with flights only serving Asian destinations. But, if you are spending a few days in Seoul and then continuing on elsewhere in Asia, Gimpo is a great option with frequent flights and an easily accessible location close to the city center.

This is a fantastic option for travelers to get to Asia. Of course, I wish it was Asiana Airlines with their ties to the Star Alliance and United, but another carrier at Houston offering more flights is never a bad thing.

The Korean Air flight departs Houston for Seoul at 10:40am and arrives in Seoul at 3:10pm the next day. Current summer prices on the route range anywhere from $1500 round-trip to $2000 round-trip in economy. Korean Air is a member of the Skyteam airline alliance.