Jetblue vs Delta: The two US airlines that want each other dead

Delta Boeing 737

Thinking back on all my years of travels, JetBlue and Delta are the two airlines that have consistently delivered the best bang for the buck. I am a really big fan of both, and I’ve been finding myself going out of my way to fly with them whenever possible. That being said, is there one that I prefer more than the other? That’s a really complicated question, and I’ve decided that the best way to answer it is to break it down into a detailed JetBlue vs Delta comparison. Buckle in and get comfortable, because there’s a lot to cover here.

Just so you know, I’m going to do this comparison of the exact same way that I did my recent Frontier versus Spirit comparison (and my Delta vs American comparison before that). I’m going to look at the overall differences first, and then will break it down into specific categories such as seats and meals.

JetBlue versus Delta: a brief summary of all the differences

The fact that I’m even making this comparison says a lot about how much JetBlue has grown since it’s inception in 2000. I vividly remember when they first launched their first flights. It was definitely exciting, though a part of me firmly believed that they would fail. Hey – being pessimistic is what I do best.

JetBlue A320
Who woulda thunk that JetBlue would end up being one of the most profitable and successful airlines in the US? Not I, but…I don’t mind being proven wrong from time to time. Go JetBlue!

The fact of the matter is this: American, United, and Delta have been so deeply entrenched here in the US that they’ve never left much room for new players. All three are extremely aggressive when it comes to defending their hometurf, and it’s extremely rare in this day and age for a new airline to emerge that can be competitive against them.

As you can imagine, I’m surprised (and happy) to see JetBlue doing so well.

Similarities

On the surface, it would seem that JetBlue and Delta are two completely different kinds of airlines serving two completely different kinds of markets. Delta is hell-bent on becoming one of the largest airlines in the world, while JetBlue seems to be focused on being the dominant player in smaller niche markets. Despite all that, there are some key similarities between the two:

  • Both airlines are heavily focused on the eastern United States. Although they both have robust networks which span the entire country, a majority of both airlines operations are focused around the eastern half of the US.
  • Both offer what I consider to be the number 1 and number 2 premium transcon business class product. JetBlue‘s premium business class product (Mint) has been my favorite for several years now. However, Delta’s premium transcon product (Delta One) isn’t far behind.

Differences

The differences between Delta and JetBlue are more extensive than the similarities. These are the most notable:

  • Delta offers an extensive network of international destinations to points all over the world. JetBlue, on the other hand, is focused primarily on serving the US domestic market. Yes, they do serve a handful of international destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean (and soon to be London), but it’s nothing in compared to Delta’s global reach.
  • Delta serves 170 million passengers annually compared to 42.73 million annually for JetBlue (pre-COVID-19 of course).
  • JetBlue’s fleet consists primarily of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. Delta, on the other hand, has an extensive fleet of aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus.
  • Delta has hubs in Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City. They also have a network of focus cities such as Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles. JetBlue, on the other hand, has hubs in New York and Boston, with focus cities in Fort Lauderdale and Long Beach.
  • While both airlines have code-share partnerships with airlines all over the world, only Delta is part of a major airline alliance (SkyTeam). JetBlue remains independent. For now.
Delta Boeing 737
Oh: perhaps the biggest difference between JetBlue and Delta? JetBlue doesn’t have any Boeing aircraft in their fleet. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but…I’m thinking maybe they agree with me on my recent “Is Boeing a buy” analysis?

An oversimplified history of both airlines

To better understand the differences between these two airlines, you need to know where they came from. However, since the histories of both of these airlines are long and complex (especially Delta), I’m going to give you the extremely short and abbreviated versions.

If you want to learn the full story about how each of these airlines came to be, I suggest grabbing some popcorn and heading over to Wikipedia and reading until your eyes bleed.

Jetblue

Although it was founded in 1998 (as NewAir), JetBlue‘s first flight wasn’t until February 2000. The initial strategy for the airline was to be a low cost carrier offering extra amenities such as personal TVs and satellite radio.

JetBlue only served two cities in the very beginning: Buffalo and Fort Lauderdale (both flights were based out of JFK). Today, they serve over 100+ domestic and international destinations with a fleet of 260+ aircraft.

Delta

One of the oldest and most established airlines in the US, Delta Air Lines commenced operations on June 17, 1929. Like most airlines of that era, they started out as an aerial crop dusting company and eventually moved towards a commercial transportation business model.

A large part of deltas growth has been via acquisitions of other airlines (and their assets):

  • Chicago and Southern Airlines in 1953
  • Northeast airlines in 1972
  • Western airlines in 1987
  • Pan Am’s transatlantic and shuttle operations in 1991
  • Northwest airlines in 2008

Again, the history of both JetBlue and Delta is utterly fascinating. I highly recommend doing the research to learn more about each – if only to learn a bit about how two of the largest and most successful companies in the world reached the level of success they have now.

JetBlue vs Delta in flight experience

This is the part of the JetBlue versus Delta comparison where things get fun. As you may already know, I did an in-depth comparison of both Delta and American Airlines earlier this year. To be honest, that wasn’t a very pleasant comparison to put together due to the fact that both airlines are Goliaths and it was difficult to summarize every facet of every type of service they offer.

For this comparison, I’m going to focus on the similarities where both JetBlue and Delta compete. In other words, I’m not going to be comparing Delta international business class food with the domestic business class food of JetBlue (since they don’t offer business class on international flights – yet).

For the purpose of simplicity, let’s just assume I am comparing JetBlue on Delta on flights from New York to Los Angeles.

Seats

Both Delta and JetBlue pride themselves in being the leaders in customer service (no, they didn’t pay me to say that). This is clearly evident when you step onboard any airplane of either airline. Chances are pretty good that your first thought will be how clean and nice the interiors are. At least that’s what I think of whenever I’m flying Delta or JetBlue. That and what I’m going to eat, that is.

Premium seats

As I already mentioned, JetBlue refers to their premium seating product as “Mint”. It’s arguably the best domestic US business class seat – an argument that I would confidently extend to comparing it to other international airlines as well. JetBlue Mint is absolutely fantastic, especially if you can get one of the single seat suites with the sliding doors that’s separate you from everyone else. It’s social distancing at its finest.

JetBlue Mint single seat suite
The glorious JetBlue Mint single seat suite.
JetBlue Mint lie flat seat
This is what I would look like dead in a JetBlue Mint seat (in case you were curious).

Delta One is almost as good. I said “almost” because the privacy isn’t as good as you would get in the JetBlue premium seat. For introverts like me, that’s a pretty huge deal.

Delta One seats
More dead bodies. As you can see, these Delta One seats are just as spacious, but not quite as private.

Comfort wise, I’d say that both JetBlue Mint and Delta One are fairly equal. I’ve had no problems sleeping in either seat, especially since they are both fully lie flat capable and feel just as good as any hotel bed. Well, almost as good. It just depends on how much of a hotel snob you are.

Economy seats

It’s been a few years since I’ve last flown JetBlue in economy, but I have spent some time in Delta economy recently and I can’t say enough good things about it. As I said, both airlines take great pride in trying to out-do one another when it comes to offering a quality economy class product. You’re going to be in no danger of a Ryanair-like experience on either.

The thing that I really like about Delta economy class seating is the fact that there are video screens at every seat. Not only that, the screens are absolutely huge, and they all feature Delta Studio. For those they don’t know, Delta Studio is Delta’s in-flight entertainment system, and it is extremely good. There’s tons of movies and TV shows available, and chances are pretty good that you won’t be struggling to find something interesting to watch.

delta air lines personal video screens
Pretty much what the inside of what every Delta aircraft looks like. On a side note, how much you wanna bet that I’m going to end up with the one seat with a broken video screen on my next flight?

The JetBlue economy class product is no slouch either. As I said, it’s been a few years since I’ve tried JetBlue economy, but the reports that I’m hearing from travelers who have experienced it lately are good. From what I can tell, it’s a very Delta-like experience with the added benefit of live TV at every seat.

Which airline serves better food?

To muddy the waters even further in this JetBlue vs Delta comparison, I’m going to show you some really delicious food from my experiences on both of these airlines. Long story short, both are at the top of their game in regards to in-flight dining (at least in the premium cabins that is), and it’s extremely difficult for me to pick a winner. Let me show you what I mean:

Premium cabins

In an effort to not drag this out longer than it needs to be, I’m just going to say that JetBlue Mint has better food than Delta One. Taste wise, I’d say that they are fairly equal. However, JetBlue wins this portion of the comparison primarily because of how creative their chefs are. Not only in regards to the food, but the way they present you with the options as well.

Mealtime on both airlines goes like this:

  • You’re presented with a menu with a list of six main options. Instead of having to choose just one, you get to pick three. Any combination, whatever you want. What you’ll end up getting is a tray of those three options, along with whatever side dishes that come with everybody’s meal.
  • Delta, on the other hand, is more traditional when it comes to serving food in their premium cabins. Just like JetBlue, you’ll get a menu with an assortment of options. However, you’ll only get to pick one. A total bummer for those with a craving for a variety of flavors.
JetBlue Mint menu.
The JetBlue Mint menu. Pick any three items, and…enjoy!
Delta One menu
The Delta One menu. Pick one…and secretly wish you were flying JetBlue Mint.

That being said, the quality of food in in both JetBlue and Delta is excellent. These are arguably the two best airlines in the US when it comes to eating (among other things). You’ll very likely be feeling satisfied after gorging your face on either airline.

JetBlue Mint food
JetBlue Mint food. Did I pick the correct three items?
Delta One food
Delta One food. Come to think of it, I think I understand where the “One” name comes from. I wish it was possible to choose three items instead of one!

A word of warning about the food on JetBlue and Delta

It’s July 2020 as I write this, and the entire United States is still struggling to win the battle against COVID-19. Air travel is still nowhere close to recovering to pre-pandemic levels, and airlines have had to make drastic cuts in order to save as much money as they can. They’ve also needed to made drastic changes with cabin service in regards to complying with proper social distancing protocols.

Long story short, the food that I just described to you above is currently not being served on either airline. The best you’re going to get is a boxed meal and a small snack. Hopefully we can get back to the way things used to be sooner rather than later…

Economy cabins

JetBlue vs Delta economy class food? There isn’t much to say really. Both offer simple snacks which will do nothing to satisfy a grumbling belly.

However, in addition to complementary snacks and beverages, both airlines offer extensive menus of food for purchase items. I’ve personally never purchased any food in the economy cabin on JetBlue, but I have on Delta several times. The quality was fine, but the exorbitant cost makes it hard to justify if it’s a short flight. Chances are pretty good that you’ll find something cheaper (and far more substantial) at your arrival airport.

Delta food for purchase
Smile. You were just ripped off in a major way for this fruit and cheese box.

Why would you choose Jetblue over Delta?

This is a very good question! Both of these airlines offer a very good (and highly competitive) product, and there is nothing about either of them which would give me any hesitation to fly with either. However, everybody’s travel needs are different, so here’s a quick breakdown on how to choose one over the other:

Choose JetBlue if:

  • You fly primarily up and down the East Coast. JetBlue is extremely strong in the eastern half of the United States, and they run an extensive network of flights based out of hubs in Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Fort Lauderdale.
  • You frequently fly transcons between Boston / New York, and San Diego / Los Angeles / San Francisco / Seattle. JetBlue Mint is the best way to fly from coast to coast here in the US. Nothing else can compare in my opinion.

Choose Delta if:

  • You fly all over the US to cities both big and small. At the time of this writing, Delta serves over 325 destinations in the US. Most of those are likely to be one stop away (or less) from your home city.
  • You enjoy flying on airplanes with brand new interiors. Delta has been absolutely crushing it in the past five years or so in regards to refurbishing their entire fleet of aircraft. No matter what type of aircraft you’re flying on, it’s likely to be clean and modern (with the latest technology and in-flight entertainment)
  • You are a frequent international flyer and you want to build status on one airline (and/or airline alliance). Delta serves a multitude of international destinations with their own aircraft, but thanks to its membership in the SkyTeam Alliance, that range of destinations increases dramatically. Note that they also partially own LATAM and Virgin Atlantic, which effectively increases their international reach even further.

Which airline has the better livery?

Just as I’ve done with all of my airline comparisons so far, it’s time to talk about the livery of both JetBlue and Delta. Which one is better? Of course I do realize that it would be impossible for me to answer that for you, but I’d like to give you my thoughts.

JetBlue

Although I like to say positive things about JetBlue, there isn’t much I can say about the livery. If I’m being honest, I find it to be rather boring. As a matter of fact, Ill go as far as to say that it’s one of the most generic airline liveries in the sky. Sorry JetBlue. You’re a fantastic airline, but your livery sucks.

The JetBlue livery.
The JetBlue livery. *yawn*

Delta

Before you get all mad at me for saying bad things about Jetblue, don’t worry. I’m about to say equally bad things about Delta and it’s lame livery. I am of the opinion that the current Delta livery is one of the most uninspired and corporate designs ever painted on a fleet of aircraft.

The Delta livery
The Delta livery. *yawn* AND *zzzz*

For the record, I said the same thing about the old “Deltaflot” livery which was unveiled back in 2000. I absolutely hated that livery when it was first and unveiled, but looking back on it, it was much better than the current version.

Moral of the story? Ask me again in 10 years what I think about the current livery, and I’m likely to tell you it was the best ever. I’m weird like that.

One Response

  1. AVLspotter

    July 12, 2020

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