American Airlines vs Delta: how they compare (seats, food, etc)

American Airlines vs Delta: how they compare (seats, food, etc)

I’ve been doing this airline blogging thing for a while now, and I think it’s safe to say that I know my stuff. In order to prove that theory, the following is an extensive comparison of American Airlines via Delta – two of the largest airlines in the US (and the ones that I have the most experience with).

According to my flight log, I’ve flown Delta Air Lines a total of 201 times. American Airlines is in fourth place on my “most flown” list, coming in at 52 times. Although I’ve flown Delta nearly 3 times more than I have American, it’s fairly easy for me to spot the differences between the two. Not only the good stuff, but the bad as well!

American Airlines vs Delta: A summary of the similarities and differences

American and Delta are two of the largest airlines in the world. Although they share some similarities, there are some key differences between their day to day operations and in-flight services. Here’s a quick summary of what those similarities and differences are:


  • Both airlines have a very large presence in New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX).
  • Both airlines have strong international route networks – except for Asia. Both have struggled in Asia for decades.
  • While both American and Delta cover the majority of the United States well, the vast majority of flights for both are in the eastern half of the country.
  • They are two of the largest airlines in the world. Delta has a fleet size of 750 aircraft, while American’s fleet consists of 892 aircraft.
  • Both airlines operate a very large fleet of Airbus aircraft for domestic flights (A319, A320, and A321). 
  • Both airlines also utilize large fleets of the 737 (multiple versions) for domestic routes. At the time of this writing, Delta has about 240, while American has 260(ish).


  • American Airlines is part of the Oneworld Alliance, while Delta is a core member of SkyTeam.
  • American Airlines employs more people than Delta (134,000 vs 91,000).
  • Delta’s fleet of long haul aircraft is predominately Airbus (A330 and A350). American’s long haul fleet is predominantly Boeing (777 and 787).
  • American Airlines offers a true first class product on some international flights (available only on the 777-300/ER). Delta’s best product is business class.
  • American Airlines has a dedicated high-end business and first class product for transcontinental routes (Flagship First Class and Flagship Business Class). Delta does not. They use their internationally-equipped aircraft fitted with their Delta One business class product instead.
  • Delta offers video screens at every seat on every aircraft. American Airlines is moving towards that goal, but isn’t quite there yet.
American Airlines 737-800 at ORD
Not that it really matters, but I prefer the American Airlines livery over the Delta livery. But I’m guessing most of you don’t care, so let’s move on…

American Airlines seats vs Delta seats

A discussion about seat comfort (and how American Airlines compares to Delta) could be the topic of an entire 10,000 word comparison, but I’m going to keep things simple for this one. Why? Quite frankly, overall seat comfort (in all classes of service) is nearly identical between these two airlines. That’s just my opinion.

American Airlines seats

In general, American Airlines doesn’t feature overly-innovative seating products. Of all the major airlines in the world, they are definitely one of the most conservative in my opinion.

However, American Airlines is one of the few airlines left in this world that offers a first class cabin on some international flights. This first class product is quite good, and most certainly competitive with airlines from all over the world. The seats are fantastic.

Here’s a closer look at their economy, premium, and business seating options:

1. International first class

Currently only available on the 777-300/ER, American Airlines international first class offers a very good seat featuring more leg room (and privacy) than business class.

The highlight feature is the seat that swivels around to face the windows – allowing you to convert the tray table and arm rest into a practical desk. The best way to show this to you is in video format (video courtesy of iTripReport):

2. International business class

International business class seats on American Airlines are some of the best in the…uh…business. They may not look as fancy as Delta’s business class seats, but they do recline fully flat – and they are great for sleeping (or hardcore lounging).

American Airlines 777–300/ER business class seat.
American Airlines 777–300/ER business class – a sweet ride on a flight from HKG to LAX a few years back.
American Airlines international business class seats
However, this is the more common international business class seat in the American Airlines fleet right now (found on the 787s and 777-200s). Feel free to read my American Airlines 777-200 business class review for more info on these bad boys.

3. International premium economy

Premium economy seats on internationally-configured aircraft (777 and 787) are similar to domestic first class seats. They feature a pitch of 36 inches and a width of about 18 inches.

American Airlines new premium economy seats
American Airlines Premium Economy seats. I have yet to try these, but…you better believe you’re gonna see a full review here on once it happens. BTW, these seats are very similar to what I experienced in QANTAS 787-9 premium economy last year.

4. International economy

American Airlines international economy seats are similar to domestic economy seats (but are slightly more roomy on some aircraft). The seats have a pitch of 31 inches and a width of 17 inches.

International economy class American Airlines 777-300/ER
International economy class on the American Airlines 777-300/ER is pretty nice. A virtual fist bump goes out to @itripreport for this detailed footage of it in his American Airlines 777-300/ER first class video.

5. Domestic first class

These seats are larger than the standard economy seats, with slightly better leg room. They feature a 42-inch pitch and a 20-inch width (on average).

Domestic first class seats American Airlines A321
Domestic first class on the American Airlines A321. Don’t let that guy at the window seat (on the other side) fool you – you won’t die in these seats!

6. Domestic premium economy

Domestic premium economy seats are standard economy class seats with more leg room. They feature a pitch around 36 inches and a width of about 18 inches.

7. Domestic economy

These seats have a pitch of 30 inches. In general, the seats are wide enough for the average adult but could be a tight squeeze for overweight passengers.

American Airlines 737-800 economy class seats
American Airlines 737-800 economy class seats. All you need to know is that I could have labeled this as “Delta 737-800 economy” and it wouldn’t have made any difference. It’s basically the same experience.

Delta seats

Delta has spent billions of dollars over the past 10 years modernizing their fleet, and the updated cabins show it. Seats in all cabins feature personal video screens, and in general, are quite comfortable. Here’s a summary of the sort of comfort you can expect on their flights:

1. International business class

Business class on Delta (officially branded as “Delta One”) is much more stylish (and slightly roomier) compared to American Airlines business class. Delta One seats are 19.7 inches wide with an 80-inch pitch.

Delta One cabin 767-400
Delta 767-400 business class (Delta One). A better looking seat than what American offers, but I’m not convinced that it’s any more comfortable.
A330-900 delta one seat from behind
Delta One on the A330-900 is their flagship international business class product. It’s the essentially the same seat as what’s on the 767-400, but it features a privacy door to shut out the world. Nose pickers rejoice!

2. International premium economy

Although not as comfortable as business class, Delta Air Lines premium economy seats (officially known as “Premium Select”) still offers a lot of legroom over regular economy. These seats feature 18 inches of width and a 35-inch pitch.

Sanspotter delta a350 empty seat
That’s me absorbing the the deep blue mood lighting in Delta Premium Select on the A350-900 from ICN to DTW.

3. International economy

Most international economy seats on Delta are slightly larger than domestic economy seats (it depends on the aircraft). These seats are 18 inches wide and have a 31-inch pitch.

Delta international economy seats
Delta long haul international seats (as you saw in my Delta 767-400 economy review). Pretty decent, but nothing special.

4. Domestic first class

Domestic first class seats on Delta are slightly larger than economy seats. These seats are 20.9 inches wide with a 38-inch pitch.

Delta A321 first class seats
Delta A321 first class. Not bad, but I can’t see anything here which gives me the urge to make fun of the American Airlines offering.

5. Domestic premium economy

Officially known as “Comfort +”, these premium economy seats offer a bit more legroom compared to regular economy class. They have a width of 18 inches and a pitch of 35 inches.

Delta Comfort + seats on the A321
Delta Comfort + seats on the A321 (which look very similar to Comfort + on the 767-300, among other Delta aircraft). Bonus points for the killer blue mood lighting.

6. Domestic economy

Domestic economy is the standard option for domestic flights. These seats average a 16.5-inch width and a 31-inch pitch.

Delta A220 basic economy seat
A typical Delta basic economy seat (as you saw in my Delta A220 review). #notbad

American Airlines food vs Delta food

When it comes to in-flight dining and snacks, comparing American Airlines vs Delta isn’t all that difficult. Both offer the same general kinds of food in every cabin, though the quality isn’t exactly the same.

As you might expect, the domestic economy class cabins are where most of the overlap happens. Both American and Delta offer complementary snacks and beverages, while supplementing it with a menu of other more substantial items for an extra fee.

Let’s have a look at the individual cabins on both airlines:

American Airlines food

All snacks and beverages in all cabins on American Airlines are complementary. Full hot meals are served in premium cabins, but I do have to give a slight edge to Delta for having slightly better food quality. That’s just my opinion anyway. Here’s what American Airlines is offering in terms of food these days:

1. International first class

Not surprisingly, the food in international first class on American Airlines isn’t any better than what you will get in business class. This is typical with most airlines these days.

2. International business class

All snacks and drinks (including alcohol) are complementary in international business class. On longer flights, you can expect to be served two hot meals.

American Airlines flagship business class appetizer
The appetizer in American Airlines long haul business class. Tasty! However, they are nowhere near as consistent as Delta is these days.

3. International premium economy

Premium economy flyers can expect food of similar quality to what is served in international business class. It won’t be presented on fancy plates (or served in courses), but the quality is awfully close.

4. International economy

Don’t expect to eat well in international economy class on American Airlines. You will likely receive a pre-packaged meal of some kind – possibly two, if the flight is long enough.

5. Domestic first class

Pre-packaged foods and beverages are served in domestic first class on American Airlines. On more competitive routes (such as JFL-LAX/SFO), you can expect a hot meal.

domestic American Airlines first class food
Sorry, pre-packaged stuff is the only kind of food you’re going to get on most domestic American Airlines first class flights these days. Don’t wrinkle your nose too much though – this cheese “platter” is pretty good actually!

6. Domestic premium economy

Depending on the time of day, American Airlines offers a wide variety of complimentary snacks shortly after departure and prior to landing.

American Airlines domestic premium economy snacks
American Airlines domestic premium economy snacks. At least they gave me a full can of soda, right?

7. Domestic economy

Drinks and snacks are complimentary in American Airlines domestic economy. No hot meals are served, but you may have the option to purchase something off the in-flight menu.

Economy class snack
Not much has changed with American Airlines domestic economy snacks over the years. This is what they were serving on one of the last American Airlines MD-80 flights – which is awfully similar to what they are serving today. Bone apple teeth!

Delta food

Delta doesn’t make as many distinctions between their flying classes as American Airlines when it comes to refreshments. Still, here’s what you can expect depending on what class you fly:

1. International business class

Expect to be fed well in Delta international business class. Drinks will be served prior to departure. In flight, hot meals (including dessert options), as well as expanded drink menu, are available.

2. International premium economy

Passengers in Delta Premium select will receive the nearly the same food as those in the business class, minus the complimentary bottle of water at the beginning of the flight.

Delta premium select lunch
Premium economy fare on my Delta A350 flight from ICN to DTW. Comfort food FTW.

3. International economy

Just as how it is in American Airlines international economy class, you’ll get a pre-packaged meal on Delta. They do serve hot meals on some routes, but it isn’t all that substantial.

4. Domestic first class

Domestic first-class flyers will be able to choose from a broader range of drinks than economy flyers. You’ll also get a snack (hot meals are only available on select flights).

domestic Delta first class snack box
I hope you like carb-loaded junk food, because that’s all you’re going to get on most domestic Delta first class flights.

5. Domestic premium economy

There are no premium meals (or snacks) available in Delta Comfort +. You will have the option to purchase food off a menu on some flights, but not all.

Delta domestic premium economy food
This is what I was recently served in Delta premium economy on a 4-hour flight from San Diego to Atlanta. I mean, I love Goldfish and all, but come on!

6. Domestic economy

Just as how it is on American Airlines domestic economy, Delta domestic economy passengers will receive a complimentary snack and their choice of coffee, tea, or water. Food for purchase may be an option. FYI, there’s no need to post a picture of this, since it’s exactly the same snack you’ll get in Comfort + (above).

Comparing American and Delta in-flight entertainment

In an effort to keep from dragging this out too long, I’m just going to come out and say that I consider the Delta in-flight entertainment system (Delta Studio) to be far superior than what American Airlines is offering.

While American Airlines does offer decent in-flight entertainment options (with both seat-back video screens and streaming entertainment) it’s a massively inconsistent product from one aircraft to the next.

American Airlines in-flight entertainment

The main advantage of the American Airlines in flight entertainment product is that it has partnerships with a handful of different subscription services.

For example, you can stream video, podcasts, and music from Apple. Rosetta Stone and Skillshare give passengers a chance to learn a language or skill while flying. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the complimentary in-flight WiFi to stream content to your own device.

American Airlines economy class
American Airlines economy: sometimes there are seat-back video screens. Most of the time there aren’t. But there’s usually always WiFi available to stream content to your own device.

Delta in-flight entertainment

Delta Studio offers a good selection of movies, TV shows, and music for all ages. WiFi is available on most flights, and it’s rare that I’ve never been able to find anything good to watch on any Delta flight over the past few years or so.

The main advantage that Delta has over American Airlines when it comes to in-flight entertainment is that there are video screens at every seat on all Delta aircraft (except for the 717 – be sure to read my review of the first class experience on the Delta 717 for more info). It’s hit or miss on American Airlines aircraft.

Delta economy class
A typical scene in Delta economy class: video screens at every seat (on most every aircraft). Take that American!

Comparing the American and Delta frequent flyer programs

I personally don’t have much to say about the respective frequent flyer programs of either of these two airlines, because (quite frankly), they both suck.

Both Delta SkyMiles and American Airlines AAdvantage are revenue-based programs, meaning the you earn points and status based on how much money you spend – not by how far (or often) you fly.

This makes earning points and status difficult for anyone on a budget, and as much as I hate to say it, is exactly the way things ought to be. Airlines are for-profit businesses, and it behooves them to reward their most valuable customers.

American Airlines AAdvantage

The AAdvantage program from American Airlines is one of the oldest and most established frequent flyer programs in existence. It’s a fairly traditional program, and I like how well it integrates with the programs of other airlines in the Oneworld Alliance

I also like how easy it is to book award seats for domestic flights. The selection is usually good, and if you’re patient, it’s not difficult to find a really good deal.

Read more about American Airlines AAdvantage

Delta SkyMiles

When comparing SkyMiles vs AAdvantage award redemptions, Delta SkyMiles are more difficult (frustrating) to redeem. For example, good luck finding a business class seat on a Delta A350 or A330 (or any aircraft configured with the updated Delta One suites) between the US and anywhere in the world for under 350,000 SkyMiles. That’s flat out robbery!

The main advantage of the SkyMiles program (for me anyway), is that it’s often cost effective to book domestic award seats at a very good deal.

Read more about Delta SkyMiles

American Airlines vs Delta lounges: who does it better?

This is just my personal opinion, but I tend to feel that American Airlines lounges are more stodgy and old-school then Delta Sky Clubs. While Delta seems to be more in-tune with current interior design trends, nearly every American Airlines lounge I’ve ever stepped into felt like taking a step back in time to the mid-1990s.

American Airlines Admirals Club CLT
The Admirals Club at CLT. “Corporate vibe” level 10.

To be blunt, American Airlines Admirals Clubs are on the more beige and brown side of the spectrum. If I had to use a single word to describe them, I’d have to go with “corporate”.

This isn’t the case everywhere of course, and there are exceptions. For example, the American Airlines Flagship lounge at JFK is very modern and quite nice. Then again, it is a Flagship lounge, so it better be nice.

American Airlines Flagship lounge JFK
I will give credit where credit is due however. The American Airlines Flagship lounges (such as this one at JFK Terminal 8) are really nice!

Delta Sky Clubs tend to be bright and colorful throughout the entire network (read my San Diego Delta Sky Club review to get a better understanding of what I mean). It’s also important to note that Delta doesn’t have a premium lounge brand. They are all marketed as Sky Clubs.

delta sky club terminal 4 jfk
Delta Sky Clubs are generally better than Admirals Clubs IMHO. And not because of their gratuitous use of red or anything. They just feel more stylish and modern. This is the Sky Club at JFK btw.

Based on what I’ve seen during my journeys all over US, I’m giving Delta the slight edge due to having slightly better lounges (in terms of overall design). For what it’s worth, I think both the American Airlines and Delta lounges are terrible in the food department (American Airlines Flagship lounges not withstanding).

Why would you choose American Airlines over Delta (or vice versa)?

While seemingly very similar to one another, American Airlines and Delta offer a wide variety of different amenities and services. Here’s a summary of the reasons why you might choose one over the other:

Choose American Airlines if:

  • You need an airline that won’t gouge you on international award redemptions. There are some pretty good deals to be found with the AAdvantage program – something I can’t say about Delta SkyMiles.
  • You live anywhere near Dallas or Chicago. American Airlines can get you nearly anywhere in the world (nonstop) from those two hub cities.
  • You travel to London (or the UK) frequently. American offers more flights to the UK than Delta does, and combined with their partnership with British Airways, you’ll have flight options for all times of the day (or night). That being said, do be sure to read my British Airways vs American Airlines comparison if you ever find yourself in that situation.
  • You like flying on the Boeing 777. Delta sold off all of theirs, but it’s the flagship aircraft in the American Airlines fleet.

Choose Delta Air Lines if:

  • You live near a major Delta hub (Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle, Salt Lake City, or New York). Their flight network is incredibly strong in these regions.
  • You want to be sure that you’ll get a personal video screen at your seat. Not all American Airlines aircraft offer this.
  • You want slightly better food in premium cabins. No, it’s not that much better than what American Airlines is severing, but I find that the food is usually better on Delta.
  • You want a more consistent product from one flight to the next. One of the things that Delta does so well is to make sure that every aircraft feels and looks the same on the inside (same seat materials, colors, mood lighting, etc.). American Airlines is all over the place in this regard.

Comments (8)

  1. Ricardo

    February 27, 2020
    • SANspotter

      February 27, 2020
  2. Albert

    March 17, 2020
    • SANspotter

      March 17, 2020
  3. Aaryan

    April 13, 2020
    • SANspotter

      April 14, 2020
      • Jay

        March 23, 2021
  4. mike

    May 1, 2020

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