I brought this up earlier but there is no mystery. DL basically bet the farm on bailing out JAL and bringing them into Skyteam along with forming a JV with JAL. DL wanted a TPAC JV with a Japanese airline given DL's natural strength in Japan. Unfortunately, AA managed to match DL's offer and kept JAL in OW and created its own JV. You could argue that in hindsight DL made a huge blunder with the JAL bankruptcy investment offer but at the time it made a ton of sense. Given DL's strength in Tokyo, a Japanese JV was clearly their best option so I wouldn't fault DL for trying to form a JV with JAL
The whole JAL debacle was a large reason why the relationship between DL and KE was poisoned for so long and they've only now reconciled. But to your point, DL and AA have done as well as they could do. AA ended up with a good option for a TPAC JV (considering AA had virtually no presence in the major TPAC markets) while DL has finally managed to get KE on board to provide a comprehensive Asian network. And both DL and AA have made strong strategic moves to lock up Chinese partners.
Good summary. It's worth pointing out though that DL may have potentially dodged a sizeable bullet in JL choosing to go with AA.
JL emerged from bankruptcy in March of 2011, and it's then that they got their revenue sharing JV up and running with AA. Literally days later, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan, and from there the TPAC revenue climate between the US and Japan fell off a cliff to a degree that it arguably still has not recovered from. The financial dynamics of revenue or profit sharing joint ventures are complicated, but I'd guess that AA cuts JL a huge check just about every year to essentially subsidize JL's TPAC operations to makeup for the revenue shortfall.
Thanks for the explanation. Your version makes sense. Didn't Northwest back in the day help to set up Japan Airlines after WWII? But then I fault Delta for playing a losing hand. It would have been better to go with DL's natural partner KE from the start. And it was a low move to try to move in on the JL-AA alliance. So Delta is rightly punished by having a less-than-maximally-profitable TPAC network for the moment. Is that an example of justice in the aviation world? You have to have some standards, right?
You can only say this in hindsight. At the time, forming a JV with JAL made a ton of sense. DL has a strong presence in Tokyo and it made sense to partner with a Japanese airline to form a TPAC network. You have to remember that DL proposed investing in JAL close to 10 years ago. At the time, Tokyo (and Japan as a whole) was a much more important piece of the TPAC market than it is today and DL was fully invested in NRT with its mini hub/fifth freedom operation. There were far fewer direct flights to Asia and more reliance on transfers in Tokyo. And with the infrastructure already set up, it made total sense to try and keep it going by partnering with JAL.
Now one can argue that DL potentially ended up better off by not forming a JV with JAL. Japan is declining in relevance when it comes to TPAC travel and JAL's management in particular isn't exactly the most forward thinking group. The AA/JL partnership did give AA an Asian route network but they ended up with the weaker partner in Japan. But again, this is all evaluating DL's decisions in hindsight. DL made the right move in 2009 by pushing for a partnership with JAL. DL happened to fail but they fortunately recovered the KE relationship and now have a new partnership. But to call them arrogant or a failure is silly. They attempted the best move available to them at the time and failed but they've now recovered. Similarly, AA made the best move available to it at the time (bailing out and partnering with JAL) so good for them as well.
You have to remember that the US and Japan signed an open skies treaty in 2009 and that set off a scramble to lock up partnerships with the two Japanese airlines. So what DL and AA did are totally understandable in that context, especially since UA managed to get its partnership with NH.