Delta Plays Hardball #762, Eliminates Interline Agreement With Emirates

Delta has ended its interline ticketing and baggage agreement with Emirates. (HT: Josh)

An interline agreement is the most basic agreement and major airlines almost always have those with each other. Ending the interline agreement means neither airline will sell tickets on the other. And they won’t transfer baggage to each other, either.

It was sort of strange for Delta to terminate its agreement with American while it was continuing to have an interline agreement with one with its arch-enemies. Delta remained willing to sell tickets on Emirates even though 9/11.

Now that Delta has announced the elimination of its Atlanta – Dubai service effective February 11, an interline agreement with Emirates is much less valuable to them. Before the ability to sell tickets and transfer bags beyond Dubai would have supported the sale of their flight to the Emirates hub.

The stated reason they ended the American interline agreement was because American needed seats on Delta far more than Delta needed seats on American, so American should pay far more than industry standard for those seats. Apparently United agreed to terms like those. Although it’s Delta cutting off its nose to spite its face, because by definition this is revenue the airline would receive for seats that would otherwise go out empty. Still, they view it as tactical — they don’t want to help out a rival, unless they’re paid handsomely to do so, and are willing to forego revenue to take that position.

Interline agreements were once a basic level of cooperation between airlines to provide service to customers. Now for Delta they are a strategic business tool.

Delta plays hardball — with customers, suppliers, and with partners like Korean, which sees the SkyMiles program incentive for passengers booking onto the Seoul-based carrier obliterated when it doesn’t enter into a joint venture. And while they’re running a strong airline operation with significant profits, they can afford to do so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. From what I have read American ended their interline with Emirates in May 2014…perhaps an inconvenient truth to your analysis. In your world American was thinking clearly while Delta is playing shortsighted hardball.
    Instead of being a “thought leader” you are just a shill for American’s PR department.

  2. Delta better hope the good times continue on forever because whenever they do stop, be it 3 years or 30, there will be a line of former “partners” waiting to laugh at them & punch em in the balls when they reach out to buddy back up.

  3. @Markj – I am equally critical of American’s tactics vis-a-vis the Middle East carriers. (1) the news hook here is the move that Delta just made, and (2) Richard Anderson is seen as the leader of that silliness, besides (3) with them it’s part of a much broader narrative. None of which excuses American.

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