Whether you travel for business or leisure, it all usually starts with a flight. If your experience is pleasant and smooth, the whole trip begins positively, and that’s why choosing a good airline is always crucial. Today we’re going to compare two of the best renowned companies for air travel – American Airlines vs. Delta. Which one is better? Continue reading and learn all the details you need to pick the best airline for you or your family.
What makes a good airline company? Each passenger surely has his or her ideas and preferences. Nevertheless, some factors remain equally important to all of us: reliability, good value-for-money, perfect safety record, and customer-oriented approach are definitely among them.
Main Differences Between American Airlines vs Delta
The main differences between American Airlines vs Delta are:
- American Airlines has slightly more expensive animal transportation, whereas Delta’s pet-related fees are more affordable.
- American Airlines has more international flights, whereas Delta is a bit stronger on the domestic market.
- American Airlines has a more limited offer of snacks and food, whereas Delta has a more generous food & beverages policy and healthier choices too.
- American Airlines is the world’s largest airline when it comes to the size of its fleet, whereas Delta has slightly fewer carriers.
- American Airlines has more first and business-type fares on offer, whereas Delta has a bit limited options of this type.
American Airlines vs Delta: Which One is Better for You?
If you don’t have any recent experience with American Airlines vs Delta, it might be quite hard for you to decide which one to choose. Both are reputable, both offer attractive loyalty programs, their fares are often very similar too. How to know which one is better?
The best thing you can do is compare them side by side, focusing on each of the features separately. Then you can decide freely based on your priorities and preferences. To make it easier for you, we’re bringing you our condensed summary of all the major features, qualities, and characteristics of both companies.
American Airlines is currently the world’s largest airline – at least when it comes to the size of its impressive fleet, which contains 850+ mainline aircraft, mostly Airbus and Boeing, both narrow and wide-bodied.
The company was established in 1930 through the merging of dozens of smaller airlines. If you’re a fan of trivia, you’ve probably already heard that AA had the first-ever female commercial pilot in their crew (Bonnie Tiburzi in 1973). The airline is also a founding member of the Oneworld alliance, the third-largest alliance in the world.
AA currently has its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. The airline also has hubs in Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, and several other major American cities. Normally, American Airlines complete about 6,000 flights per day. They also serve the most international destinations among all the airlines.
American Airlines passengers can choose from eight major fare options from Basic Economy to Flagship First Class. Here’s a summary of each of them:
Basic Economy: Lowest but genuinely popular fare. Seat selection is possible for a fee, some other paid-for upgrades are available too, but the tickets cannot be changed.
Main Cabin: Basic free seat selection, or paid Preferred seat selection at any time, free onboard entertainment, snacks, etc. Other upgrades, including wi-fi available for a fee.
Main Cabin Extra: Seats with extra legroom plus priority boarding for a more convenient experience.
Premium Economy: Economy fares with added comfort. More legroom and various amenities on selected long-distance international, Hawaii, and Alaska flights.
Business: The highest level of onboard service on shorter-distance international flights. Wider seats, more legroom, blankets, and pillows, as well as various priority privileges and extra assistance.
First: The highest level of AA service available on flights across the U.S. Five-star assistance, premium dining, priority boarding, and lots of other complimentary incentives await passengers in this exclusive class.
Flagship Business: An elevated business-style flying experience with special amenities for long-distance travel. Fully lie-flat seats, chef-curated dining, lounges, complimentary wi-fi, etc.
Flagship First: American Airlines’ most exclusive and customized experience for long-distance travel. Exclusive fine-dining, premium lounges in selected hubs, premium assistance, and priority for the most luxurious flying experience.
American Airlines allows its passengers to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item (e.g. purse, handbag, briefcase, or laptop) free of charge. Carry-on baggage should not exceed 22“ x 14” x 9“)
Regarding checked luggage, economy fares with AA generally require you to pay a fee for each of your bags. The prices start at $30 per one-way on domestic and Canadian routes. Premium fare options often allow you to bring one or even multiple checked bags for free. Standard classes have an allowance of up to 50lbs, first and business-class passengers can take bags weighing up to 70lbs.
Similar to Delta, American Airlines has quite a relaxed policy when it comes to animal transportation. If your pet cat or dog fits into a particular plane-ready kennel, and you’re willing to pay the associated fees, you’re free to take your furred friend on your journey with you. Nevertheless, it’s going to cost you a bit more than with Delta since AA’s fees start at $125 per onboard kennel.
Of course, you can also transport your animal with American Airlines’ Cargo service, although various limitations might prevent you from doing it. Always check the detailed and actual information to avoid disappointment.
American Airlines has a loyalty program called AAdvantage. Members of this program are allowed to earn miles whenever they fly with American Airlines or any of its 34 airline partners all over the world. AA is a founding member of Oneworld, the world’s third-largest airline alliance, so your options to gain the miles are really wide.
Your points can be used towards all kinds of stuff including car rentals, hotel stays, retail products, or flights. The highlight of this loyalty program is that there are no blackout days and no limitations on a maximum number of reward tickets per one flight. As long as there’s a free seat, you are free to buy it with your miles.
American Airlines standardly offers quite a wide and generous meal selection on most of its flights. Basic snacks like cookies and pretzels are offered on all flights over 250 miles.
In most situations, you will also be offered free beverages and alcoholic drinks. Longer flights automatically get meal selection too. Premium fares come with a fine dining experience including some chef-selection options.
Although American Airlines food is usually praised for good taste, filling portions, and nice variety, the airline also recently cut down its meal offer while encouraging passengers to bring their food onboard.
Also, passengers sometimes complain that AA should start serving fresher and healthier food as many other companies are moving in that direction already.
American Airlines currently offers a much more generous cancellation policy than they did standardly because of the unprecedented pandemic situation.
In most cases, it allows you to cancel or at least change your ticket for free regardless of your fare type. Nevertheless, getting a full refund is quite unlikely – on most occasions, you will receive a voucher only.
AA also has a risk-free cancellation as part of its 24-hour refund policy. The only condition is that you must book and cancel the flight at least two days before the departure.
American Airlines: Pros and Cons
- World’s largest fleet
- Wide selection of fares and cabins
- Part of one of the world’s largest alliance
- Relatively relaxed cancellation policy
- Better prices than competition, regular discounts, and sales
- More luxurious fares on offer
- Miles can be turned into flight tickets without limitations
- Fewer healthy meal options, fewer snacks on short-distance flights
- Animal transportation is more expensive
- More passenger complaints on the overall experience
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is currently one of the biggest airlines in the United States. The company was established in 1925, so it boasts a very long history and lots of valuable experience.
In various regards, Delta acted as a pioneer showing the way to the others: for example, it was the first American airline with real-time flight maps in the cabin, and it was also the first airline to ban smoking on all of its flights.
Delta currently has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Besides that, they also have eight other major hubs across the United States including Boston, Los Angeles, New York, or Salt Lake City.
It serves more than 300 destinations on all six continents. Although the worldwide pandemic currently limits many of its standard routes, Delta regularly makes almost 6,000 flights daily, which ranks it as one of the biggest and most important airlines in the world.
Delta’s fleet is huge and contains all reputable makes and brands of carriers including Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Bombardier, and McDonnell Douglas. Passengers can choose from Delta’s six major fare options from Basic Economy to First Class. Here’s a brief description of each of them:
Basic Economy: Less flexibility and convenience in exchange for the most affordable fares. The basic economy class won’t let you upgrade your seats or make any other preferential changes to your flights.
Main Cabin Economy: Still a very affordable fare option that comes with slightly more flexibility. For example, you are allowed to choose your preferred seats or make some other changes for a small fee.
Delta Comfort+: Seats with extra legroom, exclusive overhead storage space, and early boarding for your convenience.
First Class: Personalized first-class experience with a dedicated attendant, priority service, almost fully reclinable seats, and many other perks and extras.
Delta Premium Select: Superior premium class with even more space and comfort including plated meals, etc. This service is not available on all flights though.
Delta One: One of the Delta’s most luxurious cabins, and reportedly also one of the best in the whole world. It has all luxurious amenities including bedding, complimentary alcoholic drinks, noise-canceling devices, chef-made meals, etc. Again, this fare is only available on selected flights.
Delta airline’ charges for baggage differ from class to class. In general, all passengers are allowed to bring one personal item and one regular carry-on bag free of charge (its measurements must not exceed 22″ x 14″ x 9″).
When it comes to checked bags, the rules vary greatly depending on the class, route, and status of the passenger. Standardly, a checked bag will cost you about $30 one way on domestic flights and $60 one way on flights to Europe.
Of course, selected fares, as well as military personnel or holders of Delta credit cards, can check baggage for free. Premium fares also allow you up to two 70lb bags for free.
In comparison with many other airlines, Delta is relatively pet-friendly. Most cats, small dogs, and other household pets can travel with you in the cabin, given that they fit into a ventilated kennel that will be stored under the seat in front of you. Fares for this service start at $75 one way depending on the route and destination.
If your pet doesn’t fit into this type of kennel, you can also take advantage of the Delta Cargo service, which allows you to ship your pet separately.
Delta’s loyalty program is called SkyMiles. For each dollar you spend on flights with this company, you’re going to earn five miles on your account. Moreover, you can also earn miles for flying with some of Delta’s international partners including KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France, as well as for purchases made with Delta’s credit card issued by American Express.
Delta’s loyalty program is currently one of the best on the market. The miles you earn will never expire, and there are many attractive ways to spend them including the flights themselves. Just keep in mind that reward seats on each flight are limited.
If you like to enjoy a hearty inflight feast, Delta should satisfy you perfectly. When it comes to selection, quality, and even quantity of meals, it’s currently considered to be one of the best airlines in aviation.
As a Delta’s passenger, regardless of your fare and cabin option, you can enjoy complimentary snacks on every flight over 250 miles. Delta’s International Main Cabin customers are also currently treated to an elevated dining experience on every flight of over 6.5 hours. It includes complimentary cocktails and bistro-style service.
Passengers usually describe Delta’s food as fresh, tasty, filling, and relatively healthy. Their quality is great and the presentation even better. There are also many special needs and dietary options to choose from. Moreover, you are also welcome to bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages onboard any of Delta’s flights.
In response to the pandemic, most airlines recently reconsidered their cancellation policies greatly, so you can enjoy relatively relaxed and reassuring terms and conditions with both of the airlines we discuss in this article. Nevertheless, Delta has always been known to provide more outgoing cancellation rules than many other companies.
For example, they have a 24-Hour Risk-Free Cancellation, which allows you to cancel any qualifying booking up to 24 hours from your purchase without any specific reason for a full refund without any additional fees. This can be done up to one day before your departure flight.
Delta: Pros and Cons
- One of the oldest and most reputable airlines in the world
- Wide selection of fare options
- Pet-friendly airline with affordable animal transportation
- Relaxed cancellation policy, good customer service
- Great food and on-board entertainment
- Good loyalty program with miles that don’t expire
- Less international flights than some competition
- Limited seats on each flight for the reward flight travelers
- Prices are often higher than with competition
Are there any alternatives?
American Airlines and Delta are definitely not your only options. Most of the domestic or international routes they cover are serviced by many other airlines too, so if you’re not impressed by either of these companies, maybe you’ll prefer some of the alternatives below:
JetBlue Airways is currently America’s no. 7 when it comes to the number of transported passengers per year. Established in 1998 originally as a low-cost carrier, the airline (now standard) is considered to be relatively young.
With 105 destinations and 270 aircraft, it’s also certainly not one of the largest on the market. Nevertheless, thousands of passengers prefer it due to its generous and super-comfortable economy class, tons of modern amenities, and good prices.
Founded in 1926, United Airlines is one of the oldest and most important aviation companies in the United States and the whole world. It is a founding member of the world’s largest alliance – the Star Alliance, and it also offers a wide array of credit cards with numerous advantages.
United currently serves 342 domestic and international destinations. The company is also big on the cargo transport market, overshadowing both Delta and AA in this regard significantly.
Answer: Delta Airlines so far experienced 12 incidents that involved the death of some or all of its passengers and crew. Its most notorious plane crash took place in 1985 on a Fort Lauderdale–Dallas/Fort Worth- Los Angeles route – 136 people including one civilian on the ground lost their lives that day because of the combinations of strong winds and technical malfunction.
American Airlines has a much richer history of accidents, crashes, and even hijackings. Two of four civilian airplanes used for the September 11 attacks were from American Airlines. Almost 300 people died on board these flights that day.
Answer: Fares vary greatly with both of these airlines depending on seasonality, demand, and occasional promotions, but generally speaking, American Airlines usually is slightly cheaper in comparison with Delta airlines.
Answer: When it comes to actual pandemic-related precautions and safety measures, Delta is currently considered to be ahead of all the other American airline companies. As the last of the large airlines, it still maintains a blocked middle seat policy.
Our Verdict: American Airlines vs Delta – Which one is better?
American Airlines vs Delta are two of the three biggest airlines in the country. They are also two of the greatest, oldest, and largest airlines in the whole world, so it’s quite possible that you’ll have the chance to choose one of them on most routes and destinations.
So, which one should you fly with? Although both companies are certainly reputable and their policies are in many regards very similar (or even identical). I believe that Delta is currently ahead of AA in numerous important details including meal experience, pet friendliness, and onboard entertainment.
On the other hand, American Airlines do offer a larger fleet, more destinations, better prices, and more luxurious fare options. Which factors are the most important to you? We’ll let you decide on that according to your own needs and preferences.
We hope this article helps you pick the airline that is really good for you. If you need more inspiration and detailed information, maybe you’d enjoy reading our KLM vs Air France comparison.