The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has flagged a further decision-making delay concerning the proposed merger between Korean Air (KE, Seoul Incheon) and Asiana Airlines (OZ, Seoul Incheon). Despite some expectations that a decision would be announced back in October, the DOJ has told Korean Air this week that it needs more time.

Per a New York Times report, the DOJ wants more "review" time and Korean Air notes that this is not a deferral or request for further information. The airline said that they attended a meeting with the DOJ only last week and that they believe this is one of the reasons why the department wants more time. In August, when the formal review process began, the DOJ indicated that a decision would take around 75 days.

“Merger reviews are still going on in other jurisdictions, meaning there is no need to rush, which could be another reason why the United States is taking more time to review the decision,” said the airline in a statement. Other key jurisdictions still to green-light the proposed KRW1.8 trillion won(USD1.4 billion) takeover/merger include the EU, the UK, China, and Japan. Earlier this week, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) flagged several concerns about the merger and its impact on competition.

Under the proposed deal, Korean Air would acquire 63.88% of Asiana and merge it into the Korean Air brand. But any merger needs to get approved by anti-trust authorities in markets the airlines fly to - if Korean Air wishes to continue flying there after the merger. If the merger goes through, Korean Air would become the world's seventh-biggest passenger airline.

Before Covid-19, Korean Air made 29% of its sales revenue from US routes. Post-Covid, in November 2022, the ch-aviation capacities module reveals seven scheduled passenger carriers operate on routes between the two countries. Aside from Asiana and Korean Air, Air Premia, Hawaiian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines all compete for business on flights between the US and South Korea.

Notably, Korean Air, which flies to 11 US cities, currently has a 44.24% market share when measured by weekly seat capacity and Asiana a 22.4% market share, giving the two airlines a tidy 66.64% share of the US - South Korea market. However, Korean Air and Asiana have already agreed to surrender some of their traffic rights to certain markets, including the US, to appease anti-trust concerns.