Virgin Atlantic Launches Korean Air Codeshare

Credit: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has launched a codeshare agreement with Korean Air that covers flights between London and Seoul, as well as onward connections from the South Korean capital.

The first phase of the partnership between the SkyTeam alliance members allows passengers booking through Virgin Atlantic to travel directly to Seoul Incheon (ICN). Korean Air serves London Heathrow daily from ICN using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Codeshare flights from Seoul to Auckland, Brisbane, Da Nang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney will start in May, followed by Fukuoka, Hong Kong, Kansai, Nagoya, Okinawa, Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita in June.

Juha Jarvinen, Virgin Atlantic's chief commercial officer, said the agreement would “bring an array of benefits” to passengers. “As one of Asia’s major carriers, Virgin Atlantic customers can benefit from its extensive route network, that will offer more choice throughout Asia and Australasia,” he said March 24.

The partnership is a first step toward Virgin Atlantic’s entry to Seoul. The UK carrier intends to launch London Heathrow-Seoul Incheon flights by summer 2024 as part of a move to allow the UK's competition regulator to clear the Korean Air-Asiana merger.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority had been investigating the deal and flagged concerns that it could damage competition between the UK and South Korea, given Korean Air and Asiana are the sole operators of nonstop flights between the countries.

To address the concerns, Korean Air has agreed to make seven weekly London Heathrow slot pairs available to Virgin Atlantic that will be used to launch a route to Seoul. Virgin Atlantic has an initial exclusive window to begin service, the length of which is dependent on Russian airspace reopening to UK airlines.

If Virgin Atlantic does not open the route during this window—within 12 months of the closure of the merger or during the summer 2024 season, whichever is later—then a second window will open, and an alternative carrier will be able to take the remedy.

Alongside the new Korean Air codeshare, Virgin Atlantic has confirmed that flights to Shanghai will resume on May 1. The airline, which joined SkyTeam on March 2, will offer daily service. It last served the route in December 2020.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.