UPDATE 6/13/18: Delta has confirmed its plan to begin nonstop flights between MSP and ICN. We've updated the post below. See Delta's official press release here.
Delta has confirmed it will launch nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and Seoul-Incheon (ICN) sometime in 2019.
Rumors of the new route to Korea started spreading on aviation forum Airliners.net Tuesday after Delta chief executive Ed Bastian met with MSP employees. Delta sent out official word Wednesday morning that the plans were a go.
The launch date of the route and flight frequency are still unclear – Delta says those details will come at a later date. But the airline will fly one of its retrofitted Boeing 777s on the route, equipped with a great premium economy seat and its fantastic new Delta One suites.
Any new routes out of MSP are always welcome news to the Thrifty Traveler team, which is based here in Minneapolis. This flight to ICN will be just the second non-stop flight from MSP to Asia. Delta currently flies a daily nonstop flight between MSP and Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
Seoul makes sense as the next addition. While it may not be the tourist hot spot that Tokyo is, Seoul is an enormous business hub. And perhaps more importantly, Seoul is in a great position to serve connecting flights throughout Asia. Those will be served through Korean Air, a SkyTeam partner airline that Delta has been building closer connections with this year.
“Travelers can connect to dozens of other cities throughout Southeast Asia through Seoul’s Incheon Airport, providing Twin Cities businesses with easy access to customers and clients in critical growing markets,” Brian Ryks, CEO and executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, said in a press release announcing the new route.
The two airlines finalized a joint venture earlier this year, allowing Delta fliers to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) on Korean Air flights, and vice versa. And the same is true for Korean Air fliers heading to the United States, who can connect onward from MSP.
The Boeing 777 is a big plane – now the largest in Delta's fleet, after the retirement of the Boeing 747s. Keep in mind that Delta flies an Airbus A350 between a far larger hub in Detroit (DTW) and ICN. Delta currently flies the 777 between MSP and HND.
But the fact that Delta will fly one of its reworked 777s on this route is spectacular. From business class to economy, it's one of the best options out there between the big three domestic airlines for long-haul travel.
Mr. TT loves the new Delta One suites, as do others. Delta's new Premium Select product is a great middle offering. And while airlines have continually crammed 10 seats across each row in economy, Delta is sticking with a 3-3-3 configuration on these planes. That will make it the roomiest economy seat to cross the Pacific Ocean among major domestic airlines by far.
Delta also confirmed that the MSP-HND flight will get one of the refurbished planes sometine in 2019.
Just when Delta can get these renovated birds will likely dictate when the MSP-ICN route begins. Stay tuned for updates.
The world is shrinking with new routes like this, and interest in traveling to Asia is only growing. This is a great addition to our home airport, and for Delta fliers as a whole.
Lead photo credit: Chris Lundberg via Flickr