Continuing our series of "how do I get home from Guangzhou, now that Northwest is dropping service?", we discuss the availability of flights through South Korea. You are permitted to take your child through Seoul's Incheon Airport on her Chinese passport with US visa, as long as you have a same-day connection and don't leave the secure zone.
This is good news for adoptive families, as Seoul (airport code ICN) offers excellent coverage to both the US and Canada. Strong business ties between Korea and China have also led to frequent services covering many cities.
The two long-range carriers based in Korea are Korean Air (airline code KE)and Asiana (airline code OZ). KE is the bigger and older of the two.
Korean Air is a significant member of the SkyTeam alliance and has strong operational ties to partner Delta Air Lines, so you can earn SkyMiles or WorldPerks miles. KE has aggressively added service to North America, opening up markets such as Las Vegas, and serving Los Angeles four times a day. KE offers two departures from Guangzhou, which connect to the North American cities shown on this map. (KE also flies to Washington Dulles as well as Dallas/Ft. Worth, but you can't make those on a same-day basis from Guangzhou.)
KE then offers onward connections in North America with SkyTeam codeshare flights on Delta or Northwest.
Flying into China is a little more complicated depending on what North American gateway you would be coming from. The early-morning departures out of LAX, Las Vegas, Toronto, and New York JFK offer the broadest range of same-day connections. Flights from Atlanta, Chicago, Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver arrive Seoul later in the day, when most departures to China have already left, although you can make good connections to Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Kunming, and Shenyang. Otherwise, you could opt to spend a night at the airport hotels and then catch morning flights to the other cities shown on the map.
Korean companies have significantly invested in nearby Shandong, Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang provinces, so not surprisingly KE and OZ put most of their aircraft into those cities. Not too many adoptive kids come from the Northeast, however. KE does have morning flights to Changsha in Hunan, and afternoon flights to Wuhan in Hubei and Kunming in Yunnan, so that does help some of you.
As of the time of this posting, I have not been able to get a press contact to answer my questions about adoption fare availability.
For a sample short-notice routing, however, the "everyday" fare is reasonable. KE's website gave me a fare of $1081 roundtrip, leaving LAX on March 7 and returning March 22.
Unlike some other airlines, you cannot book an open-jaw routing on KE's website, so you'll need to phone them to make a reservation.
Asiana Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can earn United Mileage Plus points with them (Air Canada, US Airways likewise). They do not reach as many North American destinations, nor do they offer the frequency of Korean Air. However, if your child is coming from Zhejiang or Jiangsu, OZ offers service where KE does not.Here too, not every North American city Asiana flies from has even service to/from China. Families traveling from Vancouver (actually on an Air Canada codeshare) don't make all the possible outbound connections on the same day, so would require an overnight stay in Korea.
Asiana also reaches San Francisco and Seattle, but you can't make a same-day connection going home from Guangzhou, so that's why they don't appear on this map:
Asiana likewise has not replied to my questions about adoption fares. However, on the same LAX-Guangzhou roundtrip routing I used for Korean Air above (leave March 7, return March 22), OZ quotes a fare of $909 - more than $100 cheaper than KE.
The OZ website also does not support open-jaw routings, so you'll need to call their reservations desk.
The option of flying through Korea has good potential depending on where specifically you will be meeting your child. Fares are good compared to the Japanese carriers, and more cities in China as well as North America are reached with just one connection. If more kids were coming from Northeastern provinces, KE and OZ would likely be a first-choice for many parents. However, with both of these carriers, where you are coming from and where you are going will make a big difference.