I’ve always had a soft spot for Delta. When I traveled for business in my earlier years, Delta was the first airline I earned status with. I remember receiving priority boarding with my silver status, it was a big deal for a 21-year-old. Fast forward 5 years, Delta is back on top as my domestic go-to carrier.
You might be wondering, how could I betray Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. First of all, American Airlines just announced that they are now going to fall in line with Delta and United by going revenue based. ‘Revenue based’ means you earn more or fewer miles depending on your ticket price not from the actual miles flown. For most travelers, revenue based earning will net them less redeemable miles. That means that Delta and American share basically the same earning potential, so why do I love Delta so much?
Delta allows you to redeem fewer miles/points on a handful of short-haul flights. American only offers reduced mileage flights (standard is 12.5k one-way for each airline) where the distance flown is under 500 miles, requiring you to redeem just 7,500 miles/points. Delta offers flights for as few as 5,500 miles one-way, many of which are over 500 miles in total distance. Take, for example, my frequent route of Sacramento to Phoenix which is 650 miles in total distance. Delta has 5,500 mile one-way flights almost every day this summer. That same flight using American Airline miles/points would run me 12,500 points because the distance is over 500 miles.
Now I do love Southwest, like a lot. I am on my second year of Companion Pass and it has been amazing. My biggest beef with Southwest is their destination choices. Yes, they have added flights to Mexico and the Caribbean, but why no love for Canada? How about Hawaii? Alaska? Basically you are limited to domestic mainland flights or southern beach destinations with Southwest. I am not complaining but sometimes you want to travel up north. Delta has flights from Phoenix to Montreal, Quebec, Canada for 9,500 points one-way. American Airlines requires 15,000 miles one-way to Canada and Southwest will require you to drive!
Let’s talk metal, what we call the ‘hard product’. Delta has modern interiors on most of their planes. If you don’t have a touch screen at your seat you will still be able to stream content over on-board WiFi to your laptop or phone. They also just announced that they are going to offer free in-flight entertainment for ALL passengers in July. (That includes a good choice of movies) Delta’s on-time record beats out most of the competition. (I am looking at you Southwest and American). Actually, they all scored relatively close, however I can’t remember my last delayed flight with Delta.
On-Time Performance Percentage:
1. Hawaiian Airlines, 89.11%
2. Alaska Airlines, 86.38%
3. Westjet, 85.88%
4. Delta Air Lines, 84.46%
5. Southwest, 82.12%
6. Virgin America, 81.58%
7. American Airlines, 80.14%
8. Air Canada, 79.46%
9. United Airlines, 78.99%
10. JetBlue, 78.26%
So let’s talk free travel. My top three carriers (Delta, Southwest and American) each have their respective co-branded credit cards that offer hefty sign up bonuses. (At times)
Delta’s American Express Gold card is currently offering 50,000 miles plus a $50 statement credit. Southwest frequently offers 50,000 points with their Chase credit cards. American Airlines is only offering a meager 30,000 miles with their Citi Bank card. If you were going to sign up with one of these cards I would wrestle between the Delta and Southwest card. For the American card wait until it is back up to 50,000 miles.
Keep in mind that the Southwest Chase cards now falls under the new 5/24 rule. That means if you have opened more than 5 credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months, Chase will NOT approve you. If you have signed up for more than 5 cards in the last 24 months, don’t waste a credit inquiry by applying for the Southwest card. The Amex Delta card has no restrictions other than you can only get the sign up bonus once in your lifetime. Remember, I am not paid on credit card links so I will always give you the full scoop.
If you are okay with the somewhat limited Southwest destination choices, the Chase Southwest card is probably your best bet due to their great cancellation/change policy (cancel at anytime and receive all your points back). Just keep in mind the Southwest card has a first year annual ($99 for Premier) fee where the Delta card is waived the first year. If you want to travel a bit further or you need to reach small cities, the DA Gold card is your best bet. With Delta you can use points on travel to Europe, Hawaii, Canada, and even to tiny cities such as Cody, Wyoming. (for access to Yellowstone National Park)
It is also important to check how many points each airline requires for flight routes that you frequent. Currently, Southwest is charging about 11,000 points one-way from Phoenix to Sacramento. On Delta I only need to spend 5,500 points so it would make more sense to fly DA and accumulate points with them.
What is your favorite airline and why?