Two of the largest airlines in the United States are Delta and American. The two airlines are in fierce competition with each other in several cities. And, across the country on a number of routes, the two airlines compete heavily for economy passengers. So, which airline, Delta or American, is better in economy?
For a comparison of Delta Air Lines and American Airlines in domestic First Class, check out this post!
The onboard product
Economy class products are not as diverse as business class products. Across both Delta and American’s mainline fleet, economy class on narrowbody Airbus A320 family aircraft, Boeing 737 family aircraft, and Boeing 757s are in a 3-3 configuration. The only exception is Delta’s Airbus A220 which is in a 2-3 configuration in coach.
However, on both Delta and American, the 3-3 configuration is far more common.
Seat pitch is pretty standard at about 30 inches on both American and Delta. Do note, however, that some economy class seats that are in the exit rows have more legroom. Although, both American and Delta usually reserve these seats for elite members or else charge extra to reserve such seats.
Legroom is a bit tight on both American and Delta in coach. I’m 5’8″ and I found that it was a bit constricted with my backpack under the seat in front of me. However, there are some other aspects of the seat that instantly push me toward Delta Air Lines.
Economy class comfort on both American and Delta
While some avid Simple Flying readers will remember my jaunts in Lufthansa First Class or Vietnam Airlines Business Class, or even Air New Zealand Premium Economy, most of my flying ends up being in economy on both long and short hops. And, as many frequent fliers will note, not every economy seat has the same level of comfort.
I had the opportunity to fly on a reconfigured AA ‘Oasis’ 737 from DCA to JFK en route to testing out American’s new food and Flagship First Dining Experience. Needless to say, this is one area where American could really improve. The seat on this aircraft was very lightly padded and, toward the end of this short flight, started to become quite uncomfortable. On a longer flight (especially a red-eye) this could be an issue.
Delta wins hands down here, with additional seat padding over this configuration.
Entertainment in economy
Delta is well-renowned for having seatback screens on most mainline aircraft. The only ones that do not are the MD-series and the Boeing 717. The good news for passengers is that the MD-series aircraft are on their way out of Delta’s fleet.
Meanwhile, the view on American’s retrofitted aircraft looks like this:
American instead encourages passengers to bring their own device onboard and connect to American’s WiFi for free streaming entertainment. Passengers can also plug their devices into the USB outlet located near the tablet holder. While not the best option, it is better than having nothing. Although, it should be noted that some of American’s aircraft still have seatback screens:
Both American and Delta also have power outlets in economy.
Overall: American vs Delta in economy
One variable in coach is meal service. On both Delta and American, most main cabin routes feature free snacks and soft drinks. However, on some premium routes, both airlines also offer some upgraded complimentary meal options– for example between JFK and LAX.
At the end of the day, Delta does edge out American in economy with inflight entertainment and more a more comfortable, widespread product. American is continuing to retrofit aircraft with uncomfortable seats that lack seatback screens, although the airline is still keeping the option of on-demand entertainment for passengers.
Do you prefer American or Delta in domestic economy? Let us know your preference in the comments!