Delta and American are two of the largest airlines in the United States and are in fierce competition with each other. And, across the country on a number of routes, the two airlines compete heavily for economy passengers. Both airlines also offer economy class passengers the opportunity to upgrade themselves to extra-legroom seats. So, which airline, Delta or American, is better in economy with extra legroom?
The onboard product
Extra-legroom economy class products are very similar to economy class configurations discussed in a previous post. Here is a bit of a refresh: 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.
Delta brands its extra-legroom economy as Comfort+ while American sets it as Main Cabin Extra.
Seat pitch is pretty standard at about 34-36 inches on both American and Delta.
I’m 5’8″ and I found that having the extra legroom was fantastic– even with a backpack under the seat in front of me.
Comparing levels of comfort
While some avid Simple Flying readers will remember my jaunts in Lufthansa First Class or Singapore or KLM Business Class, a decent number of my flights end up being in economy. And, in several cases, I either get an upgrade thanks to status or else pay outright for a seat in extra-legroom economy.
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. Like the economy seat, 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. Granted, I did find that the Main Cabin Extra legroom section to be far less constricting– compared to the usual.
Delta’s padding seemed far better as shown in the photo below:
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. So, on most aircraft, you will have access to on-demand seatback screen entertainment.
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. Still, during meal and snack services, it is nice to have seatback screens.
Overall: Comfort+ vs Main Cabin Extra
There are two big variables on this. One variable in extra-legroom economy 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 or else long-haul routes to destinations like Hawaii.
At the end of the day, Delta does edge out American in extra-legroom economy with inflight entertainment and 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.
But, in terms of price, I have consistently found American to beat out Delta. American charges a minimum of $20 for a Main Cabin Extra seat. But this can increase depending on route length. Still, I have found that American offers a far better value. Extra-legroom economy is not premium economy so this is a huge consideration to keep in mind when considering price.
Do you prefer American or Delta in domestic economy? Let us know your preference in the comments!