American Airlines vs Delta: A Category Comparison
American Airlines and Delta are two of the biggest names in U.S. aviation. Both giants have their unique strengths and loyal customers. But how do they truly compare? Let's take a closer look.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines stand out as two of the U.S.'s most prominent full-service airlines. However, size isn't the sole determinant of quality. If you're weighing options between the two, it's essential to consider elements beyond just the ticket price, especially if you're thinking about aligning with one of their loyalty programs.
Base & Flight Destinations
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are both headquartered in the United States, but they have vast networks that cover numerous international destinations.
- Headquarters: Fort Worth, Texas
- Primary Hubs: Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Philadelphia, Miami, Phoenix, Washington–National, Los Angeles, and New York–JFK.
- Destinations: American Airlines operates around 6,800 flights daily to nearly 350 destinations in more than 60 countries. They have a strong presence in North America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Asia. Along with its associates, it reaches over 900 locations across more than 170 countries and regions. It's a member of the Oneworld alliance, which consists of 14 airlines.
Delta Air Lines:
- Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
- Primary Hubs: Atlanta, Detroit, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Boston.
- Destinations: Delta flies to more than 275 destinations in over 50 countries, on six continents. Their network is robust in North America and Europe, and they also serve numerous cities in Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. In collaboration with its alliance members, it caters to over 1,000 locations across 180 nations. It's among the 19 airlines that make up the SkyTeam alliance.
Winner → American Airlines. Both airlines have codeshare agreements with international partners, further expanding their reach. While American serves a greater number of destinations directly, Delta's inclusion in a more extensive airline alliance gives it a broader reach for international locations.
American Airlines. The AAdvantage program allows you to accumulate miles and Loyalty Points when you make purchases with American Airlines, its affiliate airlines, and on expenses like hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, cruises, and using American Airlines' partnered credit cards. Achieving elite status through Loyalty Points provides various perks, such as complimentary seat upgrades and enhanced mile accumulation. You can use AAdvantage miles for award travel.
Delta Airlines. Delta SkyMiles enthusiasts earn miles by flying with Delta and its affiliated airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, Hawaiian Airlines, and Air France. Additionally, using a Delta credit card can also accumulate SkyMiles.
A drawback of the Delta SkyMiles scheme is that basic economy fares don't contribute towards SkyMiles or elite status progression. In contrast, American Airlines provides reduced mileage earnings and Loyalty Points even for basic economy bookings. SkyMiles can be redeemed for flights, hotel accommodations, upgrades, Delta Sky Club lounge entries, experiences, merchandise, and other travel-related expenses. However, in terms of redeeming miles for award flights, Delta tends to be more restrictive, especially when compared to American Airlines' extensive route options and more cost-effective award tickets.
Winner → American Airlines. American Airlines took the lead with a marginally superior rewards rate and a more straightforward route to achieving elite status, placing it just ahead of Delta Air Lines.
Baggage & Other Fees
On American Airlines economy flights, passengers can take along one carry-on and one personal item at no extra cost, provided they fit in the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front. For checked baggage, the initial fee starts at $30 and goes up for any extra bags. However, certain benefits like waiving the first checked bag fee apply to some co-branded credit cardholders, AAdvantage status members, and premium cabin travelers. More about baggage → here.
Planning to fly with your furry friend? It'll cost you $125 for your pet to travel in an approved onboard kennel. If you're sending an unaccompanied minor, there's a $150 fee (plus tax) one way. Luckily, if you have additional siblings on the same journey, this fee covers them too.
For Delta Air Lines' economy passengers, the baggage policy is somewhat parallel. They can carry one bag and a personal item onboard without incurring extra charges. The first standard checked bag starts at a fee of $30. However, certain credit cardholders, those in premium cabins, and elite status members can avail of a waived fee for their first checked luggage.
Unaccompanied minors on Delta are charged $150 for a one-way journey, which covers up to four minors. If you're flying with your pet, there's a one-way fee of $95, but remember, only one pet is allowed onboard as a carry-on.
Winner → it's a tie. Both American and Delta have nearly the same charges, with the exception of the fees for carry-on pets.
- American Airlines provides many of the amenities typical of a contemporary airline, such as fast in-flight Wi-Fi and a variety of entertainment choices, spanning movies to music. However, on the majority of AA flights, passengers are required to utilize their own devices like phones or tablets to access this entertainment, rather than an integrated screen on the seat ahead. Additionally, American Airlines does not offer complimentary texting, except for app-based messaging when connected to Wi-Fi.
- Delta provides a seamless in-flight entertainment experience. Their Delta Studio feature offers passengers movies, TV shows, music, and podcasts directly from integrated seatback screens on numerous flights. Furthermore, Delta allows passengers to use iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp for free texting, ensuring they remain connected even at cruising altitudes.
Winner → Delta Airlines. Delta boasts a higher reliability score and superior onboard experience. The complimentary messaging and in-seat screens give Delta an edge over American Airlines.
Comparing the experiences of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, American comes out on top in several areas, particularly in achieving elite status faster. While Delta may not boast as expansive a route network, it compensates with an enhanced in-flight experience and smoother operations. But most of us choose airlines based on schedule & budget, don't we? So at the end it's up to you to decide.