Korean Airlines has cut a $1.6 billion deal to take over its nearest rival, Asiana. The resulting operation, which will keep both names, will be the world's 8th-largest airline, at least by pre-pandemic rankings. While the mainline service will operate as two brands, their three low-cost affiliates will be merged into one.
One clear effect of this pandemic year has been to scramble airline competition, with some airlines sharply reducing service or disappearing altogether, while others take over the competition, not necessarily out of strength but mutual weakness. In a few cases, such as Alitalia, it has even resulted in renationalization of flag carriers. Other airlines are surviving only on bailouts.
The two airlines have similar fleets; both operate A380s and 747s, and both also operate significant numbers of A330s, and 777s. On newer planes, they've gone in different directions, with Korean buying 787s and Asiana A350s
A major question not resolved in announcements so far is alliance membership. Korean Airlines is a Sky Team member, and Delta is a 10% owner of its parent company; the two airlines also have a joint operating agreement on some routes. Asiana is a Star Alliance member. It is not clear whether that will change, or whether the 'two-brand' strategy might be aimed at keeping a foot in both alliances.