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Today we’re going to be looking at the main differences between Alaska Airlines and Delta, two airlines that have been in the business since the dawn of time. Well, more specifically about 40 years, but you get the idea. These airlines are often mentioned in the same sentence because they both are known for solid customer service and a well-to-do flight experience.
I’ve spent the last 5 years traveling all over the United States and the world, using all sorts of airlines to get there. Alaska Airlines and Delta airlines are two options that come up in conversations frequently because they’re so similar and highly rated. Thus, I figured I’d write an article that broke down some of the major differences!
In this article, we’re going to break down the main differences between Alaska Airlines vs Delta, go over some key features, review my decision-making tips, and look at a few alternatives to consider.
Bottom Line Up Front
The bottom line here is that both Alaska Airlines and Delta are solid choices to fly with, and are highly regarded for their customer service. However, if you’re looking for a premium flight experience, I’d air on the side of Delta Airlines as their airlines have a bit more luxuries to them and can cater to more places around the world. Delta Airlines makes me feel like I’m flying like a king. The seats are extremely comfortable, the food’s delicious, and there’s so an overwhelming amount of entertainment options. I never can decide what to watch!
However, if you’re on a budget and live on the west coast of the United States, you really can’t go wrong with Alaska Airlines. They have a solid flight attendant crew, and I’ve never had hiccups flying with them.
Main Differences Between Alaska Airlines and Delta
Let’s check out the main differences between these two airlines.
- Alaska Airlines services more of the west coast, whereas Delta Airlines services more of the east coast and has options for international travel
- Alaska Airlines has three options for seating, whereas Delta Airlines has five options for seating, which are more premium in nature
- Alaska Airlines is often regarded to have “the nicest staff in the world,” whereas Delta Airlines is simply very highly reviewed
- Delta has a wider variety of food choices on its menu, including options from world-renowned chefs, whereas Alaska Airlines has a smaller number of menu choices
- Delta has monitors on every seat in their planes for entertainment, whereas Alaska Airlines only has monitors in their First Class sections
- Delta’s reward program offers a bit more premium features (especially to it’s higher-end clients,) whereas Alaska Airlines miles can usually get you a bit further
Let’s take a look at the key features of Alaska Airlines and Delta.
Alaska Airlines was first founded in the 1930s when Linious “Mac” McGee created McGee Airlines with a three-passenger plane that flew out of Anchorage, Alaska. What a name! After World War II the company rebranded to Alaska Airlines and became increasingly popular once James Wooten became president of the airline. Today the company has over 300 fleets and over 20,000 employees.
Alaska Airlines is based out of Seattle, Washington, and operates primarily on the west coast of the United States. It serves over 100 destinations in the United States but doesn’t operate much in the “international” travel world, besides Canada and Mexico. However, it does specialize heavily in Alaska (no surprises there,) and can reach many niche areas that can’t be accessed by boat or car. If you’re looking for a flight that’s on the west coast, Alaska Airlines isn’t a bad option.
I’ve been to a few National Parks across Alaska, and have always had good experiences getting to them with Alaska Airlines!
For checked baggage, Alaska Airlines charges $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag. They allow one carry-on item (22” x 14” x 9”) and one personal item for the flight, both included in the price of your ticket. If your bag is overweight, you’ll also be charged a $100 fee, which can be a bit of a bummer so make sure your weight is down.
I always like to bring a carry-on bag when I travel, to keep my load as light as possible. If you figure out how to pack your bag right, (pro tip; use travel packs!) you’ll never have to check a bag again!
Alaska Airlines has three seating sections: Main Cabin, Premium Class, and First Class. The Main Cabin and Premium Class seats are exactly the same, except the Premium Class seats have a bit more leg room and also come with Alaska Beyond Entertainment, which is their onboard streaming service that can be accessed via your mobile device. Overall the base seats are fairly comfortable and offer a decent headrest and a nice-sized tray table to work/eat on.
In terms of First Class, this is where Alaska Airlines really steps up. The First Class seats have much more room to lounge and include a video screen plus better service and meals by the staff. I wouldn’t say they have the best First Class set up in the business, but it’s certainly better than the back cabin seats.
The attendants on Alaska Airlines are often referred to as “the nicest staff” in the world, which is quite the reputation to live up to. In my opinion, they knock it out of the park in this category. You’ll find them to be caring, generous, and catering to your every need- which is saying something when it comes to airlines.
I’ve always had great experiences with them, and have even made a friend once that I still hang out with to this day!
If you’re in the Main Cabin or Premium Cabin sections, you’ll get a free drink and snack pack for the flight, which varies depending on the flight. I always go for the cookies. They do offer a few items for purchase, such as some deli sandwiches, tapas, and cheese/fruit platters. In addition to food, they also offer sodas, juices, and alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits.
If you’re in First Class with Alaska Airlines, you’ve lucked out. You’re going to have a tv screen set up in your chair, packed with onboard entertainment. If you’re in the rear cabin areas, you’ll get access to streaming services that can be accessed on your device. On some airlines, they’ll even supply tablets that you can rent if you don’t have a device that can stream with you.
Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is an award-winning program that offers one point for each mile flown. This is a nice system as it doesn’t reward how much money you’ve spent, but how many miles you’ve traveled- thus encouraging the best deal possible. You can then use these miles for hotel stays, upgrading to first class, and general flights.
Delta Airlines actually started as a crop-dusting service back in 1925 right out of Macon, Georgia. Who would have known? This makes it one of the oldest airlines in operation, and it is ranked second in terms of the world’s largest airlines. Its fleet consists of over 700 aircraft, and it had over $30 billion worth of revenue in 2021. They are one of the top-ranked companies on the internet, and personally, one of my favorite airlines to fly.
In terms of availability, Delta Airlines shines very well compared to Alaska Airlines. For one, they are an international airline, which accesses hundreds of cities across the globe. In terms of the United States, they are primarily focused on the east coast, which makes them a good choice if you’re in that region of the country. Delta’s biggest hubs are in Atlanta, New York, and Boston.
I almost always use Delta Airlines if I’m on the west coast. They have particularly good flights in New York.
Delta Airlines has essentially the same prices when it comes to bags as Alaska Airlines, with their first checked bag being $30, and their second checked bag is $40. However, if you purchase a First Class or Delta One ticket, you’ll get two checked bags included for free. If your bag ends up being overweight, it could cost $100 or $150 depending on what the weight is.
Again, pack your carry-on well and you’ll never need to pay for a checked bag!
The seat classes are my favorite part of Delta Airlines. They have five different tiers of seats, which allows you to perfectly adjust your experience to your budget. Plus, for every single seat class, you’ll get a built-in tv for entertainment. This is the next level, and many flights only provide TVs for premium seats. The five levels are Basic, Main, Comfort, First Class, and Delta One.
Basic and Main are fairly similar except Main gets boarded a bit quicker and you’re allowed to pick your seat. Comfort gives you a bit more leg room and you’ll get free food and drinks plus a dedicated storage bin. First Class and Delta One are the premium options for flying and include fancy seats, free food/drinks, priority boarding, and extra special service. Delta One is extra special in that its seats have the option to recline into a flat position and you’ll get a special chef-curated meal.
The staff on Delta flights is pretty standard, and I’ve never had a bad experience with them. If you look online you’ll see very few complaints about them, so I would say overall they are a good team to fly with. One thing to note is that since they’ve been around so long, they’ve really tuned in to what works in terms of a good/bad staff member.
The best thing about Delta flights is that they are known for their Biscoff cookies, which are included on every flight and honestly the highlight of my experience. In addition to these famous cookies, Delta has all sorts of different meals depending on the duration of your flight and the region you are flying to. If you sit in Delta One, you’ll have the option of eating meals created by world-class chefs. Obviously, Delta has a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on their flights well.
The best thing about Delta Airlines is that all of the seats in their airlines have monitors that supply a massive library of streaming content. Also, depending on the aircraft, Delta Airlines offers wifi services that can be purchased for the trip. If you travel a lot like me, you can purchase monthly packages to save money on the wifi.
I always forget to load media on my device before traveling, so knowing there are enough options makes Delta a good choice!
Delta’s reward program is known as SkyMiles and is free to join. You’ll be rewarded with points of each mile you fly, which can be redeemed on flights across the country or around the world. As you fly with Delta more, you’ll move up the ladder from a Silver member to a Gold member, to a Platinum member, to a Diamond member. Benefits include free upgrades, priority boarding, access to the SkyClub lounge, and multiplying miles.
Decision Making Tips
Still having trouble deciding which airline to use for your next trip? Here are some tips to help you make a more educated decision.
How Far Are You Going?
If you’re starting on the west coast and traveling somewhere in the west and/or the continental United States, you’re most likely going to find a better deal with Alaska Airlines. They hold a lot of hubs on the west coast, which makes it easier to find more affordable flights. In addition, if you’re going to somewhere remote in Alaska, Alaska Airlines will almost certainly be able to get you there.
However, if you’re starting on the east coast and going anywhere in the world, you’ll most likely find a better deal with Delta. They’re simply a bigger company and have more reach with their fleets.
What Kind of Experience Are You Looking For?
If you’re looking for a higher-end experience, Delta Airlines is the way to go. They have more options to cater to a luxurious experience, including flat-lying seats, a larger food/beverage selection, and a better in-flight entertainment system. However, if you’re simply looking for a flight that will get you from point A to point B relatively comfortably without hiccups, Alaska Airlines is the way to go- and you’ll probably save a bit in the process.
Pros and Cons
- Cheap deals on the West Coast, and easy access to remote locations in Alaska
- Staff is often referred to as “the nicest team in the world”
- The mileage program is award-winning and is one of the most valuable rewards programs in the airlines industry
- Option to rent tablets for entertainment on board, and access to streaming services that you can access on your device
- Only three different seat class systems, not many bells/whistles
- First Class isn’t “amazing,” but it’s the best you’ll get on Alaska Airlines
- No international travel options besides Canada and Mexico
- Meals on Alaska Airlines are subpar, and they don’t have nearly as many options as competitor airlines
- Delta One and First Class are some of the most luxurious seats in the entire airline industry
- Meals are absolutely delicious, and some options are cooked by world-class chefs
- Can work your way up the miles program to get massive benefits like free upgrades, priority boarding, and private lounges
- TVs monitors for entertainment are on the back of every seat on the plane, no matter what class you’re in
- A more expensive airline, as they are generally more comfortable across the board
- Deals aren’t the best on the west coast, where you can find good deals with Alaska Airlines
- Customer service is decent, but isn’t known for being “exceptional”
Alternatives to Consider
Let’s take a look at a few alternative airlines to consider.
Southwest is a good option if you like flying with style. All their flights have leather seats, and the branding is way too catchy to avoid. Southwest is also probably one of the best flights if you want an engaging staff. I’ve been on several flights where the staff were hilarious on the microphone, and fun to talk to.
If you’re looking for maximum comfort on your flight, JetBlue is the way to go. For several years in a row, they’ve ranked highly for on-flight entertainment, snacks, and comfortable seats. If I know I’m going to be having a lazy day flying (like after a trip to Las Vegas,) I’ll seek out a flight like JetBlue to make sure I’m comfortable on the way back.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly flight, I would argue that Frontier is the best experience. Many people venture even lower into the Spirit Airlines category, but I wouldn’t do that simply because it can cause more issues than it can solve with your flight. Frontier will get you from point A to point B with relative ease, at a solid price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: The truth is that these are both trusted airlines, and you’ll most likely have a great experience on either flight. However, if I had to pick one I’d air on the side of Delta, simply because they have been around longer and have a stronger reputation. Plus, they can fly to more destinations across the globe.
Answer: No, they are individual companies that are operated independently. Delta started in Georgia about 7 years prior to Alaska Airlines, which started up in Alaska under the original name “McGee Airways.”
Answer: Alaska Airlines will give you more benefits for the miles you receive. They match every mile you travel with a 1-1 point. However, the benefits of their program are limited. If you’re looking for more options, I’d go with the Delta SkyMiles program, where you can work your way up the ladder to increased benefits.
Overall, if you’re looking for a flight on the west coast and don’t mind having all the luxuries in the world on your flight, I’d hop on an Alaskan Airways flight. You’ll get a solid experience with a great staff, and be fairly comfortable in the process. However, if you’re a serious flyer and looking for a solid loyalty program to subscribe to alongside a higher-end experience, I’d try out Delta airlines. They’re one of the oldest airlines in the world for a reason.
I hope this article has been helpful to you in determining which airline to use for your next flight! As always, happy travels.
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