You are currently viewing Delta vs United Air : A Travel Comparison Guide

Delta vs United Air : A Travel Comparison Guide

When it comes to some of the best airlines, Delta and United might come to mind. Delta and United Airlines are two of the most well known airlines in the industry. They have been competitors since they were established. Whether you are flying across the country or across the world, Delta and United will be able to accommodate you. 

There is so much to think about when choosing the right airline. How crammed the seating will be, if the food is actually good, and even if they have a point system for your credit cards to help you earn free credits for more flights. Airlines can differ from each other in many ways, both in quality and in quantity. 

Main Differences Between Delta vs United Air Travel

  • Seating/Comfort – Delta and United have similar seating policies. Both are about 17 inches wide and have about 31-22 inches of legroom.
  • Food and Drinks – Both airlines offer snacks and hot meals. However, Delta will not serve snacks unless you travel over 250 miles. United is happy to serve snacks and drinks no matter how far you fly. United also has a wider range of meals and snacks offered, compared to Delta.
  • Entertainment – Both Delta and United offer many ways to provide entertainment. Either through streaming or on screen viewing, there is always a way to watch your favorite TV show or movie. However, Delta has more features, like free messaging and more of a streaming variety.
  • Baggage Fees – Baggage fees differ between the two, depending on your destination and what class you are seated in. Both airlines have 50 pound weight limits for economy class. Delta has a 50 pound limit for first class and United has a 70 pound limit for Premier Gold members in first class.
  • Destinations/Locations – Both airlines offer a wide variety of destinations. Whether it be in your own country, or across the globe, both Delta and United have options to get you there.

Breaking Down Economy Class

There are quite a few differences between the airlines. Delta and United are similar, yet different. Here, we will break the differences down.

Seating

With United, you will be allowed one personal item, like a shoulder bag or purse, laptop bag or another item that is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches or less. Other items, such as medical devices (including breast pumps), mobility aids and assistive devices are permitted .When you choose your basic economy ticket, your seat will automatically be chosen prior to boarding and you will not be able to change that seat once it is assigned.

Group and family seating is not an option with United. Large groups will not be able to sit together unless your seating assignments were purchased in advance and there are available seats. Refunds are also not an option for those traveling with United, limited to what is stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy. As for seating measurements, they vary based on what type of plane you are on and how large it is.

United’s economy seating has 31 inches of legroom, with the seat being 17.3 inches wide. This can change depending on the plane.

With Delta, you are allowed to carry one bag that is not any larger than 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches. Basically, you can bring the same type of carry on listed for Delta, as stated above. Unlike United, Delta’s seats will be assigned after check in. You will not be able to change or cancel your ticket, but they do offer a Risk Free Cancellation Period. Like United, Delta does not guarantee a seat next to family or friends.

Delta’s economy seats are basically the same as United,except they are 17.2 inches wide and have 31-32 inches of legroom. Like United, this can change depending on the size of the plane.

Food and Drink

As for food and drink, both Delta and United serve complimentary food. However, there is a restriction with Delta that if a flight is under 250 miles, no food or drinks will be served. In comparison, United will happily offer their passengers a snack and a drink even if the flight is short.

Delta and United also have extra food available for those who are still hungry or want an additional snack. On both of their websites, both the airlines have their menus available. Both airlines offer snack boxes. Delta’s snack box includes chips, dip, and chocolate for $8.99. United’s similar sized snack box includes white cheddar cheese puffs, honey mustard pretzels,gummi bears, and Oreo cookies for $8.00. These snackboxes are the lowest priced options. Upgraded snack boxes are also available. For example, United has a wider variety of hot foods for a max of $10.00 and Delta offers wraps for a max of $10.49.

Both airlines provide special meals for those who have specific dietary needs. Those who are gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, or follow specific religious traditions can find a meal suited for their likings. 

Entertainment and Wifi

When traveling, more often than not, we like to be able to watch TV or play on our phones to pass the time. Both airlines offer inflight entertainment. Delta’s movie and show streaming features are free. With Delta, you can enjoy over 1,000 hours of free entertainment, including 12 channels of live satellite TV on select aircraft. In addition to the 12 channels, you will be able to play games, stream movies, watch TV series from HBO, Hulu, Showtime, and listen to your favorite podcasts using Delta’s complimentary earbuds.

With Delta, you can use free in-flight messaging. All you need to do is connect your phone to in-flight wifi and select the “ free messaging” pass.

United Airlines recommends that you bring in your own smart phone or device, as they recently began phasing out their entertainment screens on the back of the seats.The reason they started phasing out the screens is because of how popular smartphones and tablets are these days. However, certain flights still do have the entertainment screens and will allow you to view DirectTV free of charge. This will provide you with access to more than 100 TV channels and movies. The DirectTV service is not available on flights outside of the continental United States.

As previously mentioned, United recommends using your own device to stream your favorite shows or movies. United does offer United Private Screening options on select aircraft. With United Private Screening, you will have access to a large variety of TV shows and movies that can be streamed on your laptop, Android device or Apple iOS device. 

Before your flight, you will need to download the latest version of the United App on your mobile device, if you are planning to use your phone. If you plan on using your laptop, make sure to fully charge it before boarding and bring headphones. If you do forget your headphones, United does offer complimentary earbuds, just in case. On some planes, power outlets are available. 

As for messaging, United has a way to send messages, but not the same as Delta. Unlike Delta’s free messaging, you will need to go through an app to send your messages with United. Some of the apps that are suggested are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Apple Messages because these can work while connected to wifi.

Baggage Fees

As if travel isn’t difficult enough, not knowing your baggage fees can certainly add to the stress of trying to get from point A to point B. Here are some important things to know about baggage policies and fees for both Delta and United.

With United, the weight limit for your checked bag in economy class is 50 pounds. It is necessary to remove any lithium batteries in those bags. You can bring the batteries on board, in your carry on bag. It is highly recommended to remove any valuable items, such as cash, medication, or jewelry and put them in your carry on. 

Depending on where you are traveling to, prices will vary for checked bags. It is a good idea to find a bag that will be light in weight in order to not make your bag any heavier than it needs to be. Capacity, dimensions and material all play a big part in choosing the right luggage.

If you prepay, you can save money on checking your bags.  For example, if you are flying economy class from LAX to JFK, you can expect to pay $35 for your first bag and $45 for your second. If you prepay, it is $5 less. If you are traveling from LAX to Cancun, Mexico, you can expect to pay $35 for your first bag and $60 for your second. If you prepay, you will still get $5 off per bag.

Delta has similar baggage requirements. It is $30 for your first checked bag (50 pounds or under) and $40 for your second checked bag. However, their website does not state anything about having the option to prepay and does not offer a tool to calculate prices for baggage, like United does, unless you already have a trip booked.

Destinations and Locations 

Delta passengers can fly to up to 300 destinations and to more than 50 countries around the world. Delta is a SkyTeam member that partners with 18 additional carriers, covering thousands of destinations in 170 countries.

United is a Star Alliance member, covering over 300 destinations across five continents. Star Alliance partners with 26 other carriers, which is larger than SkyTeam.

For those who frequently travel, it is a great idea to join a Frequent Flyer member program for your favorite airline.

Breaking Down First Class

Like the economy class, first class has its differences. Here, we will break down the two to have a better understanding of both airlines.

Seating

Delta’s first class seating is rather spacious. You will be able to stretch out with up to 8 extra inches of legroom compared to economy. You will also be able to enjoy an 11 inch screen on the seat backs on many Delta planes. With first class, you will have a dedicated flight attendant to help make you more comfortable, by providing you with blankets, pillows, and earbuds whenever you need it.

United’s extra comfortable seats were designed with your comfort in mind. The first class seats are made of leather and have an adjustable headrest. The seats are reclinable and have a padded cushion. You will also be able to find some storage spaces for your personal items around your seat. As mentioned with Economy, United offers private screening for your personal devices, and it is available on the seat back screens in some airplane models. 

Food and Drink

Delta first class guests will have a limited menu to choose from, but with great options. On every flight, you can enjoy a seasonal variety of meals,soda ,water, snacks, juices, Starbucks coffee, wine, beer, and spirits.

United offers seasonal meals as well. Their drink options are similar to Delta – including beer, wine,liquor, hard seltzer, soda, coffee, water, juices and snacks.

Entertainment and Wifi

Delta offers over a thousand hours of entertainment with Delta Studio. This includes your favorite movies, TV shows, podcasts and music. You will have the option to view or listen to your shows or music on their seat back screens or you can use Delta’s Wifi and download their app.

United offers their United Private Screening, like in economy class, to view your favorite movies, shows, podcasts.Some plane models still have the seat back screens, while other planes do not. It depends on the model of the plane you are on. Wifi is always an option to stream your favorites on your personal devices or using United’s app. 

Baggage Fees

If you are traveling through Delta’s first class, you automatically get two free checked bags (50 pounds or under).  If you are a Medallion Member, you can get 3 free checked bags. Any additional bags are full price.

When traveling first class with United, you get two free checked bags (50 pounds or less). If you are a United Premier Gold member, you can check 3 complimentary bags weighing 70 pounds or less.

Destinations and Locations

Delta and United have the same destinations and locations as economy class. With Delta, you can travel to up to 300 destinations and more than 50 countries. As a SkyTeam member, Delta is partnered with 18 other carriers, still covering thousands of destinations across 170 countries.

As a Star Alliance member, United covers over 300 destinations over five continents. 

FAQs

Question: Which is better? United Airlines or Delta?

Answer: We think United Airlines is the better choice out of the two. As previously mentioned, they offer a wider range of locations and destinations, have better snacks offered within any mileage, and have a higher weight limit, by 20 pounds more than Delta, for their first class members who are a part of their Premier Gold member club. Delta has a Medallion Member club, but the weight limit for their checked bags is still 50 pounds no matter what class.

Question: What is the worst airline in the US?

Answer: Based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) most recent travel report, Spirit Airlines is ranked the worst airline in the United States because of their cleaning procedures, unsatisfied customers, and the blockage of middle seats.

Question: Which airline has the cleanest planes?

Answer: We care more today about cleanliness than ever before but having a clean airplane is really important. We want to make sure that the attendants are wiping down armrests, throwing away garbage, and sanitizing restrooms before the next flight. In a study done by “The Points Guy,” they actually found Delta to be one of the cleanest airlines out there.

Conclusion

Though both airlines offer many amenities, have comfortable seating, and have a wide variety of food and drinks, we would choose United. We chose United because they offer food and drink (no matter what the mileage), have a larger range of destinations, have better snack choices, and have a higher weight limit for checked bags with First Class, if you are a Premier Gold member. That doesn’t mean Delta doesn’t have its perks though. With great First Class seating and a lot of destinations, there’s a lot to love about both of these airlines. 

If you want to know more about other airline comparisons, read our other guides here: