Delta Air Lines is now flying its newest aircraft, the Airbus A350, on its Detroit-Seoul Incheon service, the first of two routes between the US and the South Korean capital that will see the airline’s new wide-body aircraft.

The A350’s first flight to Incheon touched down over the weekend, with the first return flight to Detroit following yesterday morning.

“Seoul is our strategic hub in Asia and we’re delighted to bring our flagship aircraft to the market as well as enhanced customer experience and excellent operational efficiency to the route,” said Matteo Curcio, Delta’s vice president for Asia Pacific.

Delta’s newest aircraft is largely being used to replace its older Boeing 747-400s, which the airline will be retiring by the end of this year. The A350 features 32 of its Delta One Suites, each of which have fully flat beds and a full-height door, along with 48 Delta Premium Select seats and 226 Main Cabin seats.

Delta has earmarked the A350 for Asia-Pacific in particular, with the aircraft so far set to fly to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. The airline’s debut A350 flight took off earlier this month on its Detroit-Tokyo Narita route, while its Detroit-Beijing flights will start seeing the aircraft in January next year. Meanwhile, the airline’s newly launched Atlanta-Seoul Incheon service will begin flying the A350 in March 2018, followed by its Detroit-Shanghai route, which will get the aircraft in April.

The launch of the new aircraft to Seoul Incheon is particularly timely, coming just two days after the US Department of Transportation (DoT) granted approval to the airline’s joint venture with fellow Skyteam carrier, Korean Air, an agreement Curcio describes as a “another significant milestone in creation of leading joint ventures between the United States and Asia”.

Joint ventures appear to be a popular strategy for US carriers looking to expand their foothold in Asia-Pacific. Last month at its Annual Investor and Media Day, rival US carrier American Airlines told Business Traveller that it will be focusing on joint venture agreements as opposed to new routes in order to expand its operations in the region.

American Airlines currently has a joint venture with Japan Airlines and is seeking to re-apply for DoT approval for a similar agreement with Qantas. The airline is also keen on developing a joint business agreement with China Southern, with which it recently began extensively codesharing, further down the line.