Delta Plans Shanghai Flights Via Seoul

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Delta Air Lines is planning on resuming China services next month. However, the airline is getting creative when it comes to flying those routes. In a schedule update, Delta has indicated that it wants to fly to Shanghai via Seoul-Incheon.

Delta A350
Delta wants to resume China flights next month. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta plans one-stop Shanghai resumption

As demand starts to improve – especially within and to China – Delta wants to restart flights to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport from its hubs in Detroit and Seattle. For these flights, Delta wants to make a stop in Seoul en route to Shanghai.

China has gotten more strict in recent months when it comes to allowing foreigners into the country. This likely could impact airline crewmembers. Delta is currently running its cargo-only flights to Shanghai via Seoul. A new crew would take over from Seoul and do a turnaround from Shanghai. This means the only place Delta’s flight crew will have to layover is Seoul.

Delta Shanghai
A Delta Boeing 777 in Shanghai. Photo: Getty Images

The move would also be a way for Delta to serve China without adding too much capacity. Several airlines do operate flights like this. For example, Singapore Airlines’ flight to Cape Town operates with a stop in Johannesburg. And, hopefully, one day, Delta will fly the same. Delta likely will not have permission to fly passengers solely between Shanghai and Seoul.

Shanghai is a significant hub for fellow SkyTeam alliance partner, China Eastern. Seoul is a hub for Korean Air – also a member of the SkyTeam alliance and a very close partner of Delta’s. Delta will be able to offer connections via Shanghai or Seoul for passengers who need to fly to other destinations in East Asia.

China Eastern Boeing 777
Delta passengers seeking to fly to other points in China could connect onboard China Eastern’s aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Issues with restarting service to Shanghai

Delta is waiting on confirmation from the Chinese government for launching flights. Currently, the US Department of Transportation believes that China is blocking US airlines from operating services to the country. Unless that dispute is resolved, Delta will not be able to operate flights to China.

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At this time, Delta is only seeking to resume flights to Shanghai. Service to the brand new Beijing Daxing Airport is expected to start later this year.

Airbus A350s currently fly cargo-only flights to Shanghai via Seoul. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Will these flights become permanent?

While fewer aircraft overall will be needed to fly to Shanghai, Delta will still have to block additional time on those jets, making some itineraries longer. This would reduce some of Delta’s competitive advantage. However, for the time being, this might be the best way to serve China. Until travel demand starts to improve, it is better for Delta to fly one full aircraft to East Asia rather than two empty ones across the Pacific.

Cargo will also make its way to and from China in the hold. This helps drive additional revenue and can offset some losses as Delta is selling fewer seats onboard its planes.

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Airline schedules are incredibly fluid right now. If Delta does not get the proper approval, it will not be able to resume these Shanghai flights. If you are scheduled to fly on Delta either to or through Shanghai, keep an eye out on your itinerary in case regulatory hurdles force the airline to cancel or amend its flight schedules.

Do you think this routing is a good idea? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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