Delta Braces For Coronavirus Impact Amid Seoul Service Reductions

Delta Air Lines has announced that it will be reducing service to Seoul. This latest announcement comes as South Korea faces a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases. This is a huge deal for Delta and its joint venture partner Korean Air.

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Delta Air Lines is reducing select services to Seoul. Photo: Airbus

Delta Air Lines cuts services to Seoul

The Atlanta-based carrier announced that it would be reducing services to Seoul, South Korea, starting from February 29th. This is as a result of the uptick in coronavirus cases in South Korea. From February 29th through to April 30th, Delta is amending its schedule by suspending flights between Minneapolis and Seoul and reducing flights from Atlanta, Detroit, and Seattle to five times per week. Moreover, flights from Seoul to Manila will now start on May 1st instead of March 29th.

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Delta will suspend flights between Minneapolis and Seoul. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Seoul is a big deal for Delta

In recent years, Delta has shied away from launching its own new long-haul services and instead focused on building partnerships and buying stakes in other airlines to expand its global reach. One of those airlines is Korean Air. To get passengers around Asia, Delta relies largely on passengers who connect onto Korean Air aircraft in Seoul. Now, as the coronavirus situation worsens in Seoul, Delta is cutting back on flights.

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Delta has a joint venture with Korean Air. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Now, this means that a number of Delta passengers seeking to get across East and Southeast Asia will have to find alternate travel plans– or else reconsider travel altogether. Delta flies from Seoul from four of its hubs: Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Detroit. In addition, Delta will start a fifth freedom route from Seoul to Manila later this year.

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Delta flies from four major hubs to Seoul. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

How this will impact Delta

Coronavirus is taking its toll on airlines across the world. As far as U.S. airlines go, this will hit Delta particularly hard. Delta relies on connecting America to East Asia through connections on partners China Eastern Airlines and Korean Air in Shanghai and Seoul respectively. Now, with traffic to, from, and through those airlines reduced due to the coronavirus outbreak, Delta will take a hit in terms of flying passengers to and from Southeast Asia.

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Delta does not operate many flights to East Asia on its own metal. Photo: Getty Images

United has a pretty expansive network and can leverage connections on partners Singapore Airlines in Singapore and ANA in Japan to bring passengers across East Asia. And, American can leverage connections on Japan Airlines in Tokyo. Delta, on the other hand, does not have a major partner in Tokyo.


Passengers flying Delta to Seoul or beyond should monitor their flight and consider Delta’s options if your flight is canceled. Delta’s travel waiver applies to Delta and Korean Air flights ticketed by Delta. While Delta expects to resume flights to Seoul and China on a full schedule by May, it is no guarantee as the outbreak continues to spread.

Once the situation with the virus does improve, it will take time to build up the same passenger confidence. And, until then, expect Delta to take a hit out of the big three U.S. carriers when it comes to passenger numbers through East Asia.

Have you been affected by Delta’s Seoul service reduction? Let us know in the comments!