American and Delta are the two largest airlines in the United States, and it isn’t even close. We have extensive experience flying with both, and as far as we are concerned, there’s a clear winner when it comes to which airline is best (especially in the last year).
Which Airline’s Route Network Is Better?
American Airlines Flight Network
American Airlines has one of the most extensive flight networks in the world. It serves flights to over 350 destinations in over 60 countries. Its headquarters and biggest hub is in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW). It also utilizes Los Angeles (LAX), Philadelphia (PHL), Charlotte (CLT), Chicago (ORD), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Phoenix (PHX), and Washington DC (DCA) as hubs.
The vast majority of American Airlines’ destinations can be reached with only one layover at one of these hubs. The hubs are concentrated in the East Coast, as only four of the nine hubs are located elsewhere. There is one Midwestern hub, one West Coast hub, and two hubs in the Southwest.
Delta Airlines Flight Network
Delta Airlines also has one of the most extensive flight networks in the world. It serves flights to over 275 destinations in 6 continents. Its headquarters and biggest hub is in Atlanta (ATL), and it has domestic hubs in Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP), New York (JFK and LGA), Salt Lake City (SLC), and Seattle (SEA).
Delta’s domestic hubs are concentrated on the East Coast, but there are hubs throughout the whole country. Of its 9 domestic hubs, 4 are on the East Coast, two are on the West Coast, two are in the Midwest, and one is in the Rocky Mountains.
One of Delta’s biggest strengths is its robust connectivity to other countries. It has international hubs in Amsterdam (AMS), London (LHR), Paris (CDG), Mexico City (MEX), Seoul (ICN) and Tokyo (HND). This will be covered in more detail in the section on airline partnerships.
Which Airline Is More Reliable?
American Airlines Reliability
American Airlines is usually regarded as a reliable airline. However, with so many flights going around the world each day, there is always a chance for delays or cancellations. The whole airline industry has been struggling mightily with staffing issues in recent years, which has led to a major uptick in flight cancellations.
In my 10 most recent trips with American Airlines, I have dealt with one cancellation, one instance of lost luggage, two delays, and 6 perfectly normal flights. While this is a small sample size, it is my true experience with the airline.
Delta Airlines Reliability
Delta Airlines has a wonderful reputation for reliability. It operates one of the most extensive flight networks in the world, and they do an exceptional job of keeping flights moving on time. This is especially true in its hubs, where Delta is able to frequently make 45-minute layovers entirely possible.
Delta scans each bag every time it is placed somewhere, so travelers immediately know when their checked bags are loaded and unloaded from the plane. Delta also guarantees that your bags will arrive at the baggage claim within 15 minutes of arriving at the gate, and if they are any later they give you free SkyMiles. I have never dealt with a last-minute cancellation with Delta, and I have had very few delays of more than 30 minutes.
In my last 10 flights with Delta, I have gotten my luggage within 15 minutes each time, arrived on time every time, and experienced no cancellations. In fact, I have never had a lost or delayed bag while flying on Delta, and I have never missed a connection due to a late arrival.
Which Airline Has Better Customer Service?
American Airlines Customer Service
American Airlines has decent customer service. While it isn’t over-the-top in any way, they usually are able to handle any request you have. You can connect with a real customer service agent both via the messaging platform on the mobile app and by phone.
I have had several interactions with American Airlines’ customer service, and they have been able to effectively answer my question every time. I have dealt with a few very grumpy and problematic AA employees at the ticketing counter and gate agents (especially in Miami – yikes), but generally, my experiences have been positive and seamless. With that being said, I have always had a happy and helpful flight crew while flying with American!
Delta Airlines Customer Service
Delta Airlines has pretty solid customer service. It is hard for any customer service team to exceed expectations, but Delta employees do a really good job. They have a fantastic texting hotline and a phone number hotline that can both be used to connect with a real person.
Since I fly Delta a lot, I contact customer service a lot. Whether I am requesting flight changes, updating information, making name changes, or have an issue that needs to be resolved, Delta has always left me feeling good about the company.
Their texting hotline is especially great. While the wait times are sometimes long, there is no need to stay active in a chat. You can freely use your phone or go about your day while waiting to get connected, and you’ll receive a text when an agent is ready to connect with you.
This texting hotline has helped me to add my baby to my flight itinerary, change my route, cancel my flight, coordinate upgrades, and more.
In my experience, Delta’s flight attendants and airport employees are exceptionally friendly. They have given my son pins and stickers while boarding, upgraded my seat for free while flying to my honeymoon, and helped me to handle ticketing issues seamlessly.
Baggage Allowances and Change Fees
American Airlines Baggage Allowance Policy
American Airlines has very standard baggage policies that don’t differ very much from the rest of the industry. Passengers are entitled to one carry-on bag and one personal item regardless of fare class. Economy passengers without a cobranded credit card or elite status will not be entitled to a free checked bag, either.
The prices of bags for domestic travel differ from international routes, but the first bag usually costs around $30. Each additional bag costs slightly more than the previous one.
Delta Airlines Baggage Allowance Policy
Delta Airlines has pretty standard baggage policies, too. Every fare class, including basic economy, allows for a free carry-on to be brought onto the plane and stored in the overhead compartment. Delta also allows every passenger to bring a personal item to put under the seat in front of them. First Class seats are granted two free checked bags, but any other fare class is subject to baggage fees at check-in.
Frequent flyers and certain credit card holders may be entitled to free checked bags on each flight. This is even the case if they are basic economy passengers.
American Airlines Flight Change Policy
Because of all the uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic caused, many full-service airlines eliminated flight change fees. American Airlines now offers unlimited free flight changes on flights booked with most fare classes. As long as you change your flight at least a couple of days before traveling, you most likely will only need to pay the fare difference.
Flight prices vary by time and day, and it is rare for two identical flights to cost the same on different days. If your ticket price was $200, for example, and you want to fly on the next day, there is a good chance your new flight will cost $100 more. However, that $100 difference is purely in airfare, and there is no actual change fee assessed.
Delta Airlines Flight Change Policy
Delta eliminated change fees during the pandemic, and they are gone for at least the foreseeable future. This means flights booked with any fare class other than basic economy can be changed for free up to 24 hours before your flight, and you only pay the fare difference.
Making changes from one Delta flight number to another is very easy, thanks to their texting hotline. Whenever I want to explore potential changes, I simply send them a text, wait for my turn, and tell them what I am looking for. They can make the changes directly in their system and your itinerary will be updated immediately.
Which Airline’s Loyalty Program Is Better?
American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Program
American Airlines’ loyalty program is named AAdvantage, and it is great. As with most frequent flyer programs, AAdvantage miles can be used to purchase flights, and American Airlines offers some great promotions where flights can cost as low as just a few thousand miles. Miles never expire as long as you use your account, but they do expire after two years of account inactivity.
American Airlines also offers several co-branded credit cards that can help passengers to accrue bonus miles faster. These co-branded cards earn miles for everyday purchases, as well as extra miles for certain bonus categories. The cards are all issued through Mastercard, and each airline credit card offers unique potential perks like free checked baggage, no foreign transaction fees, and welcome bonuses.
Delta SkyMiles Loyalty Program
Delta SkyMiles was the first airline loyalty program that I signed up for, and it remains my favorite. SkyMiles can be used to purchase flights and upgrades, and they never expire. Delta miles are redeemed at dynamic rates, meaning that certain flights and routes will cost less or more miles depending on the day and flight route.
There are no blackout dates or fare classes with Delta SkyMiles. Whether you want to fly first class or business class to international destinations or in main cabin seats to somewhere in the U.S., you can book the flight with Delta SkyMiles. If you don’t have enough miles in your account, Delta also lets you buy flights with a combination of SkyMiles and dollars, or simply buy more SkyMiles.
Delta Air lines offers several branded credit cards via American Express that can help passengers to accrue miles faster. These cards range from having no annual fee to an annual fee of $550, but each tier offers a different slew of benefits. From free checked baggage to lounge access and more, Delta’s portfolio of credit cards is robust and has an option for everyone.
Can You Transfer Chase Rewards Miles to American Airlines or Delta?
Unfortunately, miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards cannot be transferred to American Airlines or Delta’s rewards programs. This includes miles accrued with any Chase credit card; even the Sapphire Reserve.
Which Airline’s Partner Alliance Is Better?
American Airlines Partnership with the OneWorld Alliance
American Airlines is a founding member of the OneWorld Alliance, which consists of 15 airlines from 14 countries on every continent except for South America. With such a robust partner network, American Airlines is able to offer its passengers seamless connections to over 1,000 destinations around the world. Many of American Airlines’ partners have very esteemed reputations, and the inclusion of Australia’s flagship airline is unique among airline alliances.
Airlines in the OneWorld Alliance
Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
Japan Airlines (Japan)
Malaysia Airlines (Malaysia)
SriLankan Airlines (Sri Lanka)
British Airways (United Kingdom)
Alaska Airlines (United States)
American Airlines (United States)
Royal Air Maroc (Morocco)
Qatar Airways (Qatar)
Royal Jordanian (Jordan)
Oman Air (Oman)
Fiji Airways (Fiji)
Delta Airlines Partnership with the SkyTeam Alliance
Delta Airlines is a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance, which is one of the largest airline alliances in the world. Consisting of 19 airlines on every continent but Oceania, this alliance’s connectivity is as good as it gets. The SkyTeam alliance includes the flagship airlines of some of the most-visited countries in the world, including Italy, France, and Mexico.
Delta’s partnerships in Latin America are one of its biggest competitive advantages over American Airlines, as American doesn’t have a single partner in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, or South America.
Airlines in the SkyTeam Alliance
China Airlines (Taiwan)
China Eastern (China)
Garuda Indonesia (Indonesia)
Korean Air (South Korea)
Vietnam Airlines (Vietnam)
Xiamen Air (China)
Air Europa (Spain)
Air France (France)
Czech Airlines (Czechia)
ITA Airways (Italy)
KLM (The Netherlands)
Virgin Atlantic (United Kingdom)
Delta (United States)
Aerolineas Argentinas (Argentina)
Kenya Airways (Kenya)
MEA Airlines (Lebanon)
Saudia (Saudi Arabia)
OneWorld Alliance vs. SkyTeam: Which is Better?
As Delta is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance and American is a member of the OneWorld alliance, both airlines have access to vast partner networks that serve hundreds of destinations. However, this looks different in the case of each alliance.
There is no single answer to the question of which airline alliance is best. When looking at SkyTeam vs. OneWorld, there are simply too many factors to consider to provide a simple answer. However, there are a few cases where a very clear answer can be had.
SkyTeam Is Best for Flights to Latin America
OneWorld doesn’t have a single member in Latin America or the Caribbean, while SkyTeam includes the top airlines in both Mexico and Argentina. As a result, Delta’s partners can get you to many more destinations in the region.
OneWorld is Best for Flights to Asia
While the SkyTeam Alliance does have partner airlines in Asia, it doesn’t have the same regional diversity as OneWorld does. SkyTeam is great for flights to China and South Korea, but that is where its strength ends. OneWorld’s partnerships with airlines in Hong Kong, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia provide great coverage across many regions of Asia.
SkyTeam is Best for Flights to Italy, France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Romania
If you want to fly to Europe, SkyTeam is the better alliance in most cases. SkyTeam includes top airlines from France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Romania, and the Czech Republic as partners, and Delta even has hubs in Paris and Amsterdam. OneWorld is better for flights to Spain, England, and parts of Scandinavia, but that’s about it.
OneWorld is Best for Flights to Morocco and most places in the Middle East
This one is close to a toss-up, but the OneWorld Alliance wins out. The SkyTeam Alliance includes partners in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, but its regional connectivity is nothing in comparison to OneWorld’s. With partners in Oman, Jordan, Morocco, and Qatar, OneWorld is the much better alliance for Middle East travel.
SkyTeam is Best for Flights to China, South Korea, and East Asia Overall
While OneWorld is overall better for flights to Asia, SkyTeam is the clear better alliance for travel to China, Taiwan, and South Korea. There are four SkyTeam Alliance Partners scattered across these three countries, compared to OneWorld’s none.
Is Delta Airlines Better than American Airlines?
When it comes down to it, I strongly prefer Delta to American Airlines.
In my experience, Delta is supreme in terms of quality, reliability, service, and convenience. This should be especially lofty praise, given that my local airport is predominantly served by American Airlines flights!
With that being said, my personal experience alone is not a comprehensive reflection of either of these airlines. At the end of the day, both American Airlines and Delta are premier airlines serving thousands of domestic flights each day. Generally speaking, they both have great reputations for reliability and customer service, and they are both good options to fly with.
Both airlines are members of top-tier airline alliances that service thousands of international flights on the world’s biggest airlines each day. Not all major airlines can say this, and it is a huge advantage. While United Airlines’ Star Alliance might actually be the best airline alliance in the world, SkyTeam and OneWorld are the real deal, too.
I have come to prefer Delta over the years, I have earned elite status with them, and their in-flight services have always stuck out to me as exceptional. I have had several bad experiences with American Airlines, and I do my best to avoid them whenever possible.
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