An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 - Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia

An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia

Recently, I had the chance to fly pretty similar flights from Seattle to Puerto Rico and back on Delta Air Lines and then American Airlines.

I had not flown on two domestic airlines back-to-back with so much the same, and I found there to be a pretty stark differences.

To San Juan, I took two Delta Boeing 737-900ERs with the newest interior (one was only a few weeks old). I flew from Seattle to Atlanta (shocking), then on to San Juan. On the way home, I took two American 737-800s. One had the Boeing Sky Interior cabin, but still shared entertainment screens. The second was an older 737-800, with no sky interior and also shared screens (but more on that later). I flew out of San Juan, through Miami, and then on to Seattle.

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900ER - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737-900ER – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz | TravelCat Industries

The cost of the tickets were exactly the same: $236 each way. I also earned Alaska Airlines miles for both flights, so I didn’t care about miles on either, nor did I have any status [update: I did not realize that Delta only gave me 50% Alaska miles vs American’s 100%. Still knowing this, it doesn’t change any of my choices or opinions since I am not much of a miles guy].  I was also in window seats and had similar seat-mate setups.

I went into these flights with no expectation of doing a story, but the fact that on similar flights, there was an obvious winner, I became motivated. And yes, you will have to wait until the end to see which airline won — no cheating!

My American Airlines flight prepares to depart from San Juan

My American Airlines flight prepares to depart from San Juan

American vs Delta 737: PURCHASING TICKETS

I booked each ticket on the airline’s website. Both were pretty straightforward and I didn’t run into any issues. I actually was booking them at the same time, filling out one, hitting next, moving to the other, doing the same.

Purchase Winner: Tie- I almost fell asleep writing this section, but it is a nice warm up.

American's Boeing Sky Interior looks nice, even with drop-down screens

American’s Boeing Sky Interior looks nice, even with drop-down screens

American vs Delta 737: iPHONE APPS

When checking in, I couldn’t pick a seat via Delta’s app (or website). I had to go to a kiosk at the airport, and still was told there was no seat assignment, but it did give me a security pass. Not sure why the app couldn’t have just done that. But that was the only failure of the app… otherwise, Delta has one sweet app. You can do pretty much anything on it; buy an upgrade, pay for a lounge day pass, and change your seat (when you have an assignment) up to almost the last second.

American’s app was much less helpful. If you close the app (and you are not logged in — which I was not), then your flight information is lost and you have to input all the data again. To change seats, it is a pain, as it takes you to the website. It gave okay flight updates, but even when I manually tried to refresh the status, it would take up to 30 seconds to update. I just ended up printing my boarding pass and stopped using the app.

App Winner: Delta- Gave me a little annoyance, but American’s was very disappointing

Boeing Sky Interior (with white lights) on Delta's 737

Boeing Sky Interior (with white lights) on Delta’s 737

American vs Delta 737: BOARDING

Boarding almost any airline has become a real bother if you don’t have some status or credit card or whatever. Yea, I get it — they are trying to make money and people are willing to pay, so good for them, but I am not paying to board sooner. You can be the first “normal” seat to board and the plane is already 75% full. Oh well, it is what it is.

One thing that really stood out to me is that Delta made an announcement for families with young children to board first. I don’t have kids, so typically don’t pay attention, but since I flew with my friend’s kids and was miffed that American didn’t offer it, I have started noticing. Neither of my American flights gave the announcement.

Both had zone boarding and, hell if I knew what zones mean what anymore. With Delta, I was “Zone 2,” but seemed to be in the last group. With American I was also “Zone 2,” but seemed to be one of the first groups.

On both of my American flights they wanted to measure my bag. Okay, fine. However, the first flight, my bag fit, no biggie. The second flight, my bag also fit (didn’t change a thing), but the gate agent decided that it was still too big. Um what? I confirmed with her, that she can see it fits in the bin, she said, yes but it still needs to be checked. I realized that this gate agent was on a power trip, so instead of fighting it out with her, I opened by bag, took out my camera case (which became my personal item) and then she let me go. Sigh.

Boarding winner: Delta- not by a lot, pre-boarding picked this one, not spite from the bag

American vs Delta 737: IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Both airlines had GoGo WiFi, and both didn’t work when over the water to/from San Juan, as expected.

Delta has an impressive IFE set up. Every seat has a very nice touchscreen with TV shows, movies, flight map, etc. There is also a USB charger next to the screen and a power outlet easily accessible below it. They also offered headsets to passengers.

American offered a shared screen, that drops down from above. From SJU to MIA, a few NBC shows played, but there were lots of American and NBC ads during the time. Even the shows played were not that great. But maybe that is more of a commentary on TV today.

YAY... Channel 9... wait, wrong airline.

YAY… Channel 9… wait, wrong airline.

There is also a sweet music selection of 14 stations in American’s armrest (that is sarcasm… 1992 called and they want their in-armrest-IFE back). Each row of seats had an outlet. I didn’t confirm mine worked — why? The whole reason why these aren’t the best anymore is I don’t want to be reaching around my neighbor’s rearend trying to find the outlet.

On my leg from Miami to Seattle, I saw an older gentleman in my row keep looking under his cushion. Figured he lost something. After standing up and pulling the whole cushion up, he caught the attention of the flight attendant. When asked what he was doing, he said he was told the power outlet was under his seat. Heh.

Cool lighting and in-seat IFE in Delta's 737

Cool lighting and in-seat IFE in Delta’s 737

Currently, all of Delta’s 737-900ERs and 737-700s have in-seat entertainment. About half of their 737-800s have it, and they are actively upgrading the rest.

American does have a 737 configuration with IFE at each seat. However, only about 15% of the 737 fleet has it, and they are not planning to upgrade their other planes, at least for now. American also offers GoGo streaming, but my computer didn’t have updated Flash, so no go-go. I could have used my phone, but I was lazy and maybe a bit of an old man since I don’t often watch movies/shows on my phone.

When my Delta flight was delayed a bit out of Seattle, they made everything free for all of us. Bonus. When our flight on American was even more delayed, I still had the free movie overhead (and unfortunately, it wasn’t one I wanted to watch).

Winner: Delta- this is not even close. I think Delta has the best domestic economy IFE and beats many international products – nice work!

One of my Delta Boeing 737-900ERs

One of my Delta Boeing 737-900ERs

American vs Delta 737: TWITTER \ SOCIAL MEDIA

Before my flight on Delta, I had some issues. I reached out to @DeltaAssist and it took nearly four hours to get the “DM us,” reply. Lame. I did it right away and then it took another few hours, with a resolution. There were no weather issues or increased customer service demand at the time. Oddly, not long after I got a reply, I made a random “pretty airplane” Tweet and @DeltaAssist replied in five minutes.

I didn’t have any issues with my American flight, but @AmericanAir was engaged and interacting with me. I had Tweeted I was afraid I might miss my flight, not even looking for a solution, but they Tweeted back (sounding human) for me to tell them which flight and they checked the status. They even were playful with my Tweets about my flights.

Although I don’t need fun interaction via Twitter, it is nice and makes me feel warm and fuzzy towards a brand. Sure, I get that @Delta has decided not to be warm and fuzzy, but taking so many hours via @DeltaAssist to answer a simple question is not cool.

Winner: American- took them a while to find the right stride, but I think AA has one of the best airline Twitter accounts  

The sun by Delta's winglet

The sun by Delta’s winglet

American vs Delta 737: OVERALL

Shocking (not shocking) the winner for me is Delta.

You won’t go wrong with American with these products, but I sort of wish I flew them first down to Puerto Rico. I found flying home, I kept wishing I was flying on Delta instead.

Delta’s ability to quickly upgrade their fleet and provide better consistency has quickly spoiled me and has me asking “why doesn’t X airline have that?” Since the merger with Northwest, I have to say that Delta has come a long way. Their product, service, and technology makes them a leader domestically.

I think American is making some great progress too, but their “best” domestic product just isn’t as good as Delta’s right now, and unfortunately they don’t have plans to make their fleet consistent.

Can't do a Delta winglet pic without an American on too

Can’t do a Delta winglet pic without an American one too. If I was comparing winglets, they both tie for being bland.

I am very excited that US airlines are paying more attention to trancons (and other domestic route quality). It is always interesting (eh, more like annoying), when you fly on a high end product on a seven hour flight, like from New York to London, and then take a not-so-great product on a flight that is almost as long, from New York to Seattle.

I think things are changing for the best and when you have one airline that provides a premium, consistent product, it often causes others to play catch up. That typically ends up being a good thing for consumers.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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Flying Economy on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A321
52 Comments

David,

Great comparison. As I am a Delta guy and a friend of mine is an American guy (both with elite status), it is great to see how the two airlines compare. I am too stubborn to try AA. Fly safe!

John

Hey John,

Always think it is good to check in with “the other guys,” to make sure you aren’t missing out. I see too many people who get so loyal to one brand that they do not see how there are better airlines to fly!

David | AirlineReporter

I just want to agree with you. American has disappointed me grealy. I was so happy with USAIR but now, after more than one bad expereince with AA, I am going back to Delta. I don’t care if I lose my elite status or not. Avoid American!

C J Stott

David,

Though I have strong ties with American Airlines (TWA retiree) your assessment was fair and unbiased. I wish American had rated better when compared to Delta. Thanks again for a thorough and impartial review. I’ll send this AirlineReporter.com review to my contacts at American. Given the customer service efforts at the “New” American Airlines, I suspect they will appreciate the review.

Thanks again

C J Stott

Hey CJ,

I really don’t American is bad, just I think Delta is better right now domestically with their 737s. This might change. One thing that I always appreciate is consistency.

I have found that Delta seems to have a more consistent product on other aircraft. Their updated 757s have an interior that looks like Boeing sky and the same in-seat IFE. They are also updating their regional jets with the same look too.

Although I recently flew on a Delta A320 from SLC to SEA and it was outdated, but they are in the process of upgrading them (the A319s too).

I like knowing, when I fly an airline, that there is a good chance I will get their best product. At least with the many 737s for DL vs AA, you are better off flying DL.

But when you add status and miles, it can be a game changer for most. At least for now, I was able to earn AS miles on both :).

David | AirlineReporter

CaptainSpeedbird1974

Delta, Better? SkyTeam wants to kill me! My first flight with DL was in the 2nd last row of an MD88 . The F/Os had to YELL to ask for our drink orders (at least they were free!) Nowadays I know the value of getting to fly on a MadDog but deep down I still despise them. On the way home I flew on an MD90 which was a little better. My 2nd trip with Delta started on a 717 which was amazing. It was like someone had given a 737 plastic surgery to look like an MD90 but on the extirior only. My flight back was on an A320 SR (safety card’s words not mine) & it was very boring. Keep in mind there was no IFE on any of these flights. My other experience on SkyTeam was on KLM. Though not too bad I had my expectations high & was disappointed. BA was a much better airline to fly. Domestically I stick with Southwest all the time.

Ok, so the biggest determining factor is seatback IFE? First point, you may not see American make a retrofit upgrade to seatback IFE. The equipment adds weight, maintenance costs, takes away from underseat space and takes away from the free space between you and the upper seatback. I am six feet tall and the seatback equipment prevents me from fully opening my 13-inch MacBook. Fail on that. Further, most airlines are now moving to system streaming to your personal device. 2010 called and they want their seatback IFE back.

What about cabin service? What about complimentary beverage choices? What about buy-on-board variety and pricing? What about flight attendant interaction?

By the way, you dont have to grab the next guy’s butt to find the earbud outlet. Its on your armrest and located where it wont violate your neighbor.

There are many factors that work together to create the experience, good or bad. Its not all about IFE.

While embedded IFE does add weight and cost (yet both AA and DL had the same fare), it adds a lot to the overall passenger experience. Streaming media is still in its infancy and often either does not work properly, or prevents someone from using their device to access the internet via Gogo WiFi since they can only do one thing at a time. The screen is also at eye level and fixed for ease of use, rather than having to figure out how to hold your own device and not take up the entire tray table in the process.

It’s not the seatback IFE that prevents you from opening your laptop in Economy, that’s just the new normal with tighter seat pitch. (Here is someone trying to use a laptop on an AA MD80 http://t.co/q0HU7fhOaT)

Also, embedded IFE does not have to take a lot (if any) under-seat space anymore. The Thales system AA installed on the 737 & A319/321 fleet is awful and is actually being addressed. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/is-more-entertainment-worth-less-legroom-on-your-flight-1427304252)

I’m betting beverage choice and buy-on-board variety was fairly similar, since there really isn’t much choice these days, anyway.

On the AA 737s, the power outlet (not earbud outlet), is located under the seat on most planes. It’s very hidden away and is a pain to access. No AA aircraft has the power outlet in the armrest. It’s either under the seat, it in the forward seatback.

Your attempt to shred my opinion fails on many points, most glaring is the fact that the author clearly stated: “There is also a sweet music selection of 14 stations in American’s armrest (that is sarcasm… 1992 called and they want their in-armrest-IFE back). Each row of seats had an outlet. I didn’t confirm mine worked — why? The whole reason why these aren’t the best anymore is I don’t want to be reaching around my neighbor’s rearend trying to find the outlet.”
One paragraph, leading sentence is about music. My bad for not seeing an indication the changed topic to (power) when referring to ‘outlet.’

Further, perhaps your height allows easy viewing of the seatback IFE. At my 6′ height, especially the 319/321 AA metal, the screen does not tilt, so the privacy layer prevents easy viewing when the seatback is reclined. Further, I was in 32F for 2-1/2 hours on an AA MD 80, one of the tightest seats on that aircraft, this past Sunday and was able to work with my MacBook easier than on the AA 737/319/321 with seatback IFE. There is also a definite difference in the underseat equipment box size on 737 vs 319/321.

Granted, tight seat pitch is the new normal, but seatback IFE limits the upper space even more. Of course its the seatback IFE that limits space. Have a look, how can it not? Some travel bloggers have called out this space/IFE/seat issue and company leaders have acknowledged the problem.

Onboard service, prices and choices? You can ‘bet’ they are similar, but the author didnt call it out either way, so how can the reader know. I can easily make a comparison that Alaska has better, more flavorful and less expensive onboard food than American. They also have a more unique beverage selection. This detail would have been helpful to the review. My whole point, there is more to a flight than IFE.

I am maxed out at 2-1/2 hours in domestic coach so in most cases, IFE, service, food, doesnt make much difference to me. I just want to get there. But it is true that a better review would consider a bit more of the inflight experience than simply IFE.

“Your attempt to shred my opinion fails on many points, most glaring is the fact that the author clearly stated: “There is also a sweet music selection of 14 stations in American’s armrest (that is sarcasm… 1992 called and they want their in-armrest-IFE back). Each row of seats had an outlet. I didn’t confirm mine worked — why? The whole reason why these aren’t the best anymore is I don’t want to be reaching around my neighbor’s rearend trying to find the outlet.”
One paragraph, leading sentence is about music. My bad for not seeing an indication the changed topic to (power) when referring to ‘outlet.’”

My opinion does not fail simply because I was able to follow the flow of the story.

“Further, perhaps your height allows easy viewing of the seatback IFE. At my 6′ height, especially the 319/321 AA metal, the screen does not tilt, so the privacy layer prevents easy viewing when the seatback is reclined. Further, I was in 32F for 2-1/2 hours on an AA MD 80, one of the tightest seats on that aircraft, this past Sunday and was able to work with my MacBook easier than on the AA 737/319/321 with seatback IFE. There is also a definite difference in the underseat equipment box size on 737 vs 319/321.”

We are actually about the same height (I’m 6’1″). The seat box on the 737 should be a bit smaller than the 319/321, but AA said they will only be reducing the 737, which is annoying. The viewing angle issue is an airline dependent issue, has AA simply choose not to install the tilt mechanism. This is especially a problem on the 77W when the forward seat is reclined. You simply can’t see the screen. However, this was an airline decision made to save cost.

“Onboard service, prices and choices? You can ‘bet’ they are similar, but the author didnt call it out either way, so how can the reader know. I can easily make a comparison that Alaska has better, more flavorful and less expensive onboard food than American. They also have a more unique beverage selection. This detail would have been helpful to the review. My whole point, there is more to a flight than IFE.”

I see your point, and it’s valid. However, this was a write-up of David’s personal experience. If he didn’t buy any food on board, it didn’t impact his experience.

Funny Jason, I guess its more important to defend your colleague than to allow reasonable, factual responses. I didnt realize the airline reporter team would take offense to an opposing or critical viewpoint. My question is, why did you single out mine as unpalatable when there are others who share my overall sentiment. Nice going… at least it tells me its a waste of time to make comments. Thank you for that.

Single your comment out? Your comment was the 3rd on the article, while the first two were complimentary.
I simply responded to your public comment with my thoughts. You are the one who went all “Your attempt to shred my opinion fails on many points” on me. My reply to you was a conversation, not an attempt to shut you up. Sorry you didn’t see it that way, though.

Another point, Jason. The AA 777-300 IFE screen in coach, DOES tilt. Also, even if this was based on personal experience only, it is helpful to readers to identify service gaps. Even with in AA/US, some crews will merchandise their food-for-sale on top of a cart, visually and verbally promoting it. For other crews, its an afterthought and you may not even know they have something to offer. Regardless of whether or not I buy as a customer, its definitely noteworthy of the level of service. You all will fly international premium cabins and write a decent critique of many elements of service. Its also helpful to help travelers know what to expect on domestic flights. Whats happened with this article, is it really misses on many points. (as well as proper paragraph construction)

I’ll let David touch upon your critique of his review. I know he always like constructive criticism.
Unless the 77W IFE screens have recently been retrofitted, they sure didn’t tilt when the 77W first launched. They are (were?) flush and immovable (https://www.flickr.com/photos/airlineflyer/15414231636/in/album-72157648351150922/)

I’ve definitely seen a major variation on the food issue you mention – recently when flying DFW-BZE, the crew didn’t say a word about food being available for purchase, and my partner and I assumed that there was nothing available because the onboard menu says food for purchase isn’t available on international flights – so we went hungry. On the return flight I asked and it turned out they did have food – but again, other than a passing mention of “snacks and meals” when the FA announced beverage service on the intercom, there was little indication that food was available on board.

Hello Amapas,

I hit some of these other things earlier, so I will try to try and agree with you here a bit.

Out of my four legs, there was only one that I bought food and that was on American. I didn’t think of it much at the time, but they did have the food on display. That could have been part of it.

Also, when I flew US Airways to Puerto Rico, earlier this year, I did note that it was a smart idea, since I was flying with kids and no doubt that had a MUCH stronger influence on them.

“The flight attendants announced that they would soon be offering food-for-purchase; even though the kids seemed uninterested at first, once they saw the cart full of goodies go by (Chex Mix, M&M’s Pringles, etc.) their tone quickly changed. Airline: 1. Temo’s Angelica’s Wallet: 0. Nicely played, US Airways.”

David | AirlineReporter

Butt-hurt much? …I’ve also had the opportunity to fly with both airlines quite frequently (thanks to friends at both AA & DA,) and I have to agree with him. Delta is offering a much better product right now, and it is starting to become more and more consistent as they retire older metal and upgrade the current. Then again, everything is subjective. Maybe you prefer searching for your outlet and not having choices when it comes to entertainment, but I do. I will say this, Delta’s thinline seats aren’t comfortable for even a one hour flight.

Butt-hurt much? …I’ve also had the opportunity to fly with both airlines quite frequently (thanks to friends at both AA & DA,) and I have to agree with him. Delta is offering a much better product right now, and it is starting to become more and more consistent as they retire older metal and upgrade the current. Then again, everything is subjective. Maybe you don’t mind searching for your outlet and not having choices when it comes to entertainment, but I do. I will say this, Delta’s thinline seats aren’t comfortable for even a one hour flight.

Hey Amapas,

I am happy to touch base on your points. This story was never intended to be a full on review. As I stated, these were my experiences back-to-back and I felt it was important to share. I don’t think that AA comes off really looking bad in this story, just Delta comes off looking better. I have also flown both airlines, quite a bit domestically, so I know neither of these experiences were isolated.

With a story almost at 1800 words (we tend to like to run 1000-1300), I had to decide what not to talk about. I know you did have issue with me not comparing service. I didn’t do that because I only had food from AA, on one leg, nothing on Delta.

Both airlines didn’t have anything stand out too much in regards to service. The only things that were good/bad was AA’s gate agent in MIA (which I talked about) and how rude the AA flight attendant was to the elderly gentleman looking for his power outlet (didn’t share she was rude in the story). However, I didn’t want to hold two employees responsible for the entire airline in that case.

Near the end of my ATL-SJU Delta flight, one of the attendants saw I was editing airline photos and nicely asked if I was doing a story on the flight (at that time I was not). When she knew who I was, I am guessing she told the others, since my level of treatment was noticeably better. Not that it was bad before, but it was not a “normal” passenger experience, so I did not consider it for the story.

I can tell you that I was able to use my laptop (which is a 13″ MacBook Pro) on all legs. I am 6’1″ tall and around 240lbs. On one leg of each flight, I had a passenger next to me and on another I had an empty seat on each airline. Obviously having an empty seat helps, but with a bit of difficulty, I was able to use my laptop on all the legs, even when the people in front of me reclined. Surely not the best set up, but doable.

For me, when taking a leg like MIA-SEA, I sure as heck care about IFE. I love flying, but that is a long flight to take in a 737, with shared IFE (I have done it twice this year).

Really, I am likely not going to pick a flight based on my paid food options…I don’t think many passengers would. I wrote about what engaged me personally and as a writer (and the guy in charge of this site). I know not everyone is going to care about the same things, but I have found over the years, it seems quite a few people share my interests and concerns. But we all don’t have to agree!

David | AirlineReporter

You mentioned that you’re not concerned with miles because you’re crediting to AS – but on most economy tickets, DL only credits 50% to AS, versus 100% for AA. That plus the benefits I get flying AA as an AS MVP is more useful to me than the issues you highlight. I do always appreciate it when I get one of AA’s newer planes though!

Hey Tonei,

Good point and you are right. I checked and AA gave me 3,769 miles and DL gave me only 1,819. The fact that I did not even know this shows that I am really not a points guy.

As I said in the story, my the biggest miles account that I have is with Alaska and I only have 40,000 miles there. Sure, I fly quite a bit, but I rarely am able to earn any miles off those flights (no complaints from me).

Even knowing the 50% miles earned, I would still have picked Delta over American. Still thank you, people should know this and I have added a note to the story.

David | AirlineReporter

FrequentFlyer

1992 called – they want their Delta airplane back. The dismissal of any amenity you find irrelevant is short-sighted and lazy journalism. Delta has a 5 year head start but American is closing the gap quickly. American’s decision to acquire newer, fuel-efficient aircraft rater than retrofitting antiques will give them a huge edge over Delta in the coming years. I won’t neglect to mention Delta is running a strong airline right now according to the metrics of on-time performance, missed bag numbers, and customer complaints.

However, I did want to mention that I was reading an article over on CNN and found it to have more substance. The writer clearly had researched the topic and presented all the facts before clearly defining their personal opinion. I’d have to say your article was a good attempt, but I prefer the other one over yours. Thanks for turning your flight and this blog entry into an “article.”

Hello FF,

I am sorry that you did not like my story. I think you might have missed the part where I try to have a sense of humor about things. I was hoping my photo with the channel 9 joke set that tone.

I agree that American is closing the gap, but passengers aren’t going to pick an airline based on what gaps are being closed. They are going to do it based on where the airline is today. Yes, current (and previous AA/US) employees should be proud of this transition. American is doing awesome (much better than United in my opinion), but Delta is doing better.

I am happy that you enjoyed a story on CNN. But AirlineReporter is not CNN. We are quite a bit different and we offer opinion, commentary, and entertainment on the airline business (with a little bit of that sense of humor I talked about earlier).

I like to think we are well respected in the airline field. Actually we have people, who work at CNN (and other media outlets), that reach out to us often to get accurate airline information. To date, we haven’t steered them wrong.

You might be the type to say “you suck, I am not reading you,” but I encourage you to spend some time, look at some of our stories and see we are a huge friend to all airlines (even Air Koryo). Then if you still think we suck, that’s cool, not everyone has to like what we do and there is always CNN.

David | AirlineReporter

To the critical respondents:

I think you guys are taking this way too seriously. The gist of Airline Reporter is that it celebrates aviation and features the personal experiences of its contributors. It doesn’t pretend to be the top authority in airline review. I don’t know how long you guys have been reading this site, but your nitpicking is kinda annoying to read and not in tune with the rather collegial atmosphere that the contributors are trying to create – have created – for as long as they’ve been doing so.

Couldn’t have said it better myself Fred — thanks!

David | AirlineReporter

I agree. Airline Reporter is a blog and meeting place for self-avowed airline junkies and Aviation Geeks

Alastair Long

Concur. We’re all doing it for our shared love of aviation, innit. I’ll try and do a comparison of easyJet and Ryanair one day. No IFEs on either ha ha

David – I think you’re comparison was great except for one thing; you’re comparing Delta’s IFE with AA’s old IFE. Granted, you were only able to compare the aircraft you were on but I think It would have been more compelling if you could have compared both 737’s each with their new IFE onboard.

Hey Dave,

I kind of had to review with what I had :).

I have flown the MIA-SEA flight a few times in the last year on AA and each was a 737-800. This last time, it didn’t have sky interior (it did from SJU-MIA), but the time before, it did. Although the IFE might not be much different, I find the sky interior does make a huge difference in the feeling of space in the cabin. I have never had a AA 737-800 on that route (or actually any other) with the individual entertainment.

Even if the AA, with new IFE won to DL’s best product, it would still be a risk, since there would be a much lower chance of getting it!

David | AirlineReporter

JL Johnson

Fun story. I like the airline rundown concept. Seems pitting one airline against another makes for good engagement too. I’m particularly fond of the end-to-end concept here, good to incorporate the booking and app experience. For what it’s worth, I think DL’s iPhone app is awesome. Amazingly though, UA seems to be the leader from what I’ve seen.

blair kooistra

Ah, Boarding! I always purchase my flights on AA on my AA-branded credit card, so I get “priority” boarding privileges. What does that mean? Well, ahead of groups 1, 2 and 3 but behind:
–military service members in uniform
–elderly/those needing assistance
–families (sometimes)
–the various minerals: Gold, Sapphire, Silver, Diamond, Ruby, Aluminum, Graphite, Titanium, Lead, Zinc, Clay, Alkali Dust, and Limestone (are there more minerals that haven’t been used for “premium” boarding groups?

I think I have “dirt” boarding status with most airlines :).

David | AirlineReporter

For what it’s worth, you don’t have to buy the ticket with the card to get those benefits – the fact that you have the card is linked to your AAdvantage number. I think united is the only airline that ties benefits to the card a ticket was purchased with.

A follow up AA vs. DL comparo with some sort of status on both would be interesting, especially to see if/how your impression changes.

Also, one thing to note: the AA app does allow seat selection, but not all the time (which is when it ships you to AA.com). When it does work, it’s pretty slick… but with the inconsistent access to the seat maps, I would agree that it’s a weak point.

I’ve never had native seat selection – it always points me to the website (in-app browser)

I worked for American from 1991-1998, mostly in station management, (last assignment was Ramp Manager). Since that time, (most definitely post 9/11), American’s service and quality slipped. As a business traveler, Delta is my first choice. Among the legacy carriers they have the service and technology edge. You failed to mention that you get nothing but a beverage on American, whereas Delta at least gives you pretzels or biscoff cookies in the main cabin (neither does UAL). I’ve shared with my colleagues that AA needs to raise it’s game considerably.

Vince

GregJo Galik

The key question here is … what carrier offers the most in value for ticket paid? The top four attributes of that are: Schedule, Seating comfort, Inflight entertainment and last food (paid for or not). You should have had a three-way comparison here with AS (the best), DL (the second best), and AA (no contest – non-qualifier!) I have flown over 200K in a year, and as to AA I have been stuck in 30″ pitch econ seats on AA long hauls to China, I have flown from PHX to everywhere in A319s/A320s and MD-80s (the worst), with even less economy seat pitch, overhead bin space, and no iFE, zip, nada zero. Along with burned out AA/USAir, and all the other airlines FAs bundled up from past mergers I can’t believe an airline such thrives as world largest … can blatantly offer cattle class service, with the belief that they will come! I could have flown 787 on AA or A330 Cathay to China a month ago, and then found out same horrible seat pitch on the AA 787. A tragedy. My two bits.

Hey Gregjo,

I would have loved to flown on Alaska, however, they do not have any flights to San Juan. I have flown them from SEA-TPA and enjoyed the flight, but did it last a few years ago and it wouldn’t be a valid comparison.

David | AirlineReporter

You were not flying on a Transcon service. Transcon is the term and “product” used by Delta and AA to fly JFK-LAX or SFO. It offers highly competing services provided by aircraft configured with lay-flat seats and resembles overseas service more than domestic service. SEA-ATL is not a Transcon product. United does it as well, but I like to pretend that they don’t exist.

Hey Andrew,

True, Atlanta might not really fit the definition of a “transcon” since it is not on the east coast, but with both airlines, I was flying from San Juan to Seattle. Big markets, like JFK to LAX, are a whole other game. AA’s A321T (which I have not flown) would very likely beat what Delta has to offer. But that was not what this story was about.

David | AirlineReporter

David

Looks like you stirred up quite a storm with the AA / DAL “Which is better”. That’s good. It means folks are reading what you are publishing

Congrats

Jim

Nice review David,
I recently did BOS-LAX-BOS transcons on AA. Both were on 738’s. Going to LA was the usual, aircraft had the Emperors new cloths on the outside but the old garments on the inside. The flight pretty much compared to yours. Coming home was on a newer 738 with all the bells and whistles attached. The flight was comfortable, plenty of legroom, I’m 6’4, in seat IFE, Sky interior the works. It was very enjoyable. IMO AA was pretty good in their regular coach, especially coming back, but jetBlue really shows everyone up on the transcons.
Gene

Nice article. Maybe it’s just me but, in spite of being pro-Delta, it teally bugs me that they advertise free in-flight movies and TV but movies cost $6 and most TV shows cost $1. I suppose we have different interpretations of “free.”

David,

Cool post. This is my first post from this website that I saw and I enjoyed it. I also applaud your professional comments to “stark” critics (haha). I may or may not have some connections to Delta, but I had some things to pass along from that product.

Delta changed the boarding process on March 1st, 2015 to what they thought was a more efficient situation. Simply put it is not. There are no changes in the zones (Prem, SKY, Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3) but the amount of passengers in each zone. Since 1MAR Premium includes first class and Diamond Medallions. SKY includes Platinum and Gold Medallions and Comfort+ passengers. Zone 1 is exit row seats, Silver Medallions, and Delta Gold AmEx card holders (and higher). Zone 2 is everyone else except for Basic Economy passengers which are in Zone 3. You’re right about Zone 2. On an MD88 (149 pax) there might be 75 passengers in Zone 2. It’s ridiculous.

Also regarding the Delta app and your seat assignmnent. If you don’t have a seat assigned and you check in you will be required to have the seat request card printed at a kiosk. A way around that is to pick a seat before checking in and then you’ll be able to experience the full functionality of the app. My understanding is that typically only preferred seats remain and passengers don’t want to pay for it which is understandable. Somebody mentioned UA having a superior app, and I definitely cannot deny that. They have a ton of cool features.

I hope that cleared some stuff up! I look forward to perusing around this site as a fellow airline nerd. Thanks again!

Nick

Parker West

I appreciated the detail you put into your report, well done. I think some fundamental issues relating to management need looking at when you’re comparing HP/US/AA and NW/DL. Richard Anderson was the most disliked airline COO in the country when he headed Northwest and he sure as hell earned the title. Check with any NW FA’s or line mechanics who stayed with the combined carrier. When the merger took place there were labor groups just waiting for the guy to fail and they were ready to insure he did, if things went south. Then what happened? NOTHING
Delta has been terrific at eliminating the dead weight in the form unneeded medium hubs and supporting the hubs that can pay for themselves, although the pissing contest in Seattle, Delta vs Alaska will forever be a drain on cash until both sides grow up.
American however is now run by the 3rd team (Doug Parker and ilk) coming from old America West or American West for the knuckleheads who could never get it right. Their attitude is reactive, in other words “do nothing until you have no choice but to act and then do as little as possible” (to compete or improve service). The middle managers were those who remained with American after bankrupcy filing. Does anyone recall how filthy AA’s aircraft and airport passenger areas were getting. It is NOT true that hurried FA’s can do a complete top to bottom cleaning in the 10 minutes the aircraft is without PA’s. On the east coast you can find plenty of former US Air folks who stayed both after the merger with HP and the merger with AA. While Delta dumped the losing hubs, and the really awful mix of aircraft they inherited from NW, they kept an good attitude, AA has gone completely the other way and Nellie, things weren’t so good before it took place. In the Phoenix area, many equated the merger of US Airways to American as a merger of a hemorroid to an ass pimple, who am I to disagree?
Maybe when there is a complete turnover in upper and middle management American will really fly again, but you only get more dysfunctional when combining two dysfunctional groups and that’s were we are today. Bad service, surly employees, nickel and dimming as if Spirit was the example to follow, and too many useless hubs. Maybe the American FA’s who have flipped out, causing flights to be cancelled by going Postal, know something we don’t.

C J Stott

Parker,
Great observations, conclusions and comments. Well thought out and constructed. Enjoyed what you had to say and your no-nonsense style.

Thanks

Interesting reading, even the comments. It sure is a sad day to me when we rate airlines if they have a twitter response and iphone app.

Hey Paul,

Interesting comment :).

Is a passenger going to buy a ticket based on an airline’s Twitter account? Hopefully not. However, airlines (and other companies) spend millions of dollars on marketing — and for a good reason. In the long-term, when you have an airline that creates this warm and fuzzy feeling about their brand, people will choose them over another. When an airline seems to care via social media, it is very easy to think that they will care while traveling.

David | AirlineReporter

Dennis Dockham

I would like to address the boarding issue. Can AA make their boarding time any longer? I for one, will never understand who comes up with the boarding process. If you have an assigned seat , it should not matter in what order you board the plane. Group boarding doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t comment on DL as I refuse to fly with them, (I have my reasons), but United’s boarding process is no better. My last flight on AA, (hopefully my last), was like a circus, and we ended up leaving 30 mins. late because they don’t know how to get people boarded in an orderly fashion. I don’t blame the flight attendants, as they are working with what they are given. Just my two cents.

C J Stott

For many years, Southwest was criticized for their “Cattle Shoot” boarding process – essentially festival seating on steroids. Over time, Southwest has tried many variations on how best to board their 737’s. They even had assigned seating (in test markets) to see if that would work better. As you know, they how have the “A” “B” “C” lines, with the ability to “advance” to a better spot for a fee. However, regardless of your “priority” Southwest still uses “open seating” and “self selection” for their passengers. Works for Southwest and it works for the passengers.

I suspect the boarding confusion, congestion and consternation is exacerbated by the baggage fees the airlines (with the exception of Southwest Airlines) charge – passengers will go to great lengths to avoid paying for checked baggage.

Seems Delta, American and UAL could all learn a lesson or two from Southwest. Simple is best and Southwest excels in finding elegant and simple solutions to very complex problems

Are you sure? I’d say that Virgin America does that better than anyone -Delta included.

Hi there, glad to hear you enjoyed your flight. As both an investor and relative to someone who worked at DL (on the NWA side) w/ multiple friends still working for them I think they’ll be pleased to hear this.

Thanks for your kind words towards us and the team as we really do try to make your experience good. Obviously, I’m biased here; however, I can say my pleasure w/ them since the merger and the strides they have made.

Glad to hear your experiences thus far w/ us have been good. I can say one thing, before we stopped allowing AA pilots/customers to interline w/ us a lot of HKrs (rollovers from cancelled/delayed flights) were jumping ship onto our planes. lol

By the way, pro tip, theres a checkpoint for carry on only passengers hidden up in the skyway at MSP. Literally NO ONE knows about it.

Have a good day.

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