Traveler spends a day flying in coach on Delta, United, AND American to prove which airline truly offers the most enjoyable budget experience
- Frequent flyer Jeb Brooks and his wife Suzanne set out to rank each carrier
- The duo took the same length flights with each airline, starting in Los Angeles
- They rated everything from the seat dimensions to inflight entertainment
Delta, United and American Airlines are three of biggest US airlines, but which comes out on top when it comes to comfort and service?
In a new YouTube video, North Carolina-based travel expert Jeb Brooks and his wife Suzanne set out to rank each carrier based on their ‘ground game,’ seat dimensions, buy onboard programs, cabin crew service and inflight entertainment.
The couple took similar length flights in economy class with each airline, starting their investigative journey in Los Angeles, where they zipped over to Denver with Delta.
They then traveled with United on to Chicago before taking the last leg to New York’s La Guardia with American Airlines.
On each flight, the duo booked seats in the middle of the plane, as they said this central location would allow them to exit the plane quicker with their tight connections.
Fly down to see their insights into what each airline offers and their verdict on which of the big three airlines ranks highest.
Delta: Los Angeles to Denver
Jeb and Suzanne paid $178.90 each to fly with Delta from Los Angeles to Denver, with one personal item and a carryon bag included
The duo went on to board a 31-year-old A320, which had a three-three configuration in its economy cabin
Jeb and Suzanne paid $178.90 each to fly with Delta from Los Angeles to Denver, with one personal item and a carry-on bag included.
He said the flight didn’t get off to the best start as it ‘was not the most organized boarding experience,’ with no proper or clear announcements.
The duo went on to board a 31-year-old A320, which had a three-three configuration in its economy cabin.
One of the first things Jeb pointed out were the seatback screens, which he says ‘you will find on most Delta planes,’ and there were two power sockets on each row, along with USB charger points by each screen.
While the plane was old, Jeb says ‘Delta does a great job at refreshing its interiors so even though its older it doesn’t feel like it.’
He also highlighted how comfortable the seat felt when he initially sat down.
While the couple waited for an announcement from the pilots about their flight, ‘none came’ and then after pushing back ‘about nine minutes later than planned’ they taxied for around an hour.
Due to their flight plan, the plane had to cross to the south side of the airport, which Jeb said ‘cost a ton of time.’
One of the first things Jeb pointed out were the seatback screens, which he says you will find on most Delta planes
Once they had reached altitude, the cabin crew offered a free snack and beverage service
He added: ‘A delay this early in the day was a real hiccup we weren’t sure if we’d have enough time in Denver to make our connection.’
Along with seatback screens, the aviation pro says another plus of flying with Delta is its free WiFi, which ‘worked well and was pretty fast.’
Once they had reached altitude, the flight attendants offered a free snack and beverage service, with the options being Sun Chips, a white chocolate macadamia granola bar, a bag of almonds and a packet of Biscoff.
In terms of seat dimensions, Delta’s seats offered a 30-inch pitch, 9.5 inches of legroom, and a shoulder width of 18 inches.
Despite the hour-long taxi time in Los Angeles, Jeb and Suzanne were only around 30 minutes late at their gate in Denver.
From there, they made a dash for their next flight…
United: Denver to Chicago
Jeb and Suzanne paid $328.85 each to fly with United from Denver to Chicago, with one personal item and a carry-on bag included
They boarded a four-year-old Boeing 737-9 Max with a three-three configuration in the economy cabin
Unlike Delta, there was no seatback entertainment on United’s regional flight but Jeb says this is something that they are adding to more aircraft in their fleet
Jeb and Suzanne paid $328.85 each to fly with United from Denver to Chicago, with one personal item and a carry-on bag included.
The delay with Delta on their previous flight meant they were pushed for time at the airport but they made it to the gate.
They boarded a four-year-old Boeing 737-9 Max with a three-three configuration in the economy cabin.
As before, Jeb said they ‘quickly settled’ into their seats, before giving the space a thorough inspection.
As with Delta, they found two plug sockets on each row but one difference was the offer of a menu for United’s buy onboard program.
Jeb said they were ‘very excited’ to see the food offering as they had only eaten snacks on their last flight.
Unlike Delta, there was no seatback entertainment on United’s regional flight but Jeb says this is something that they are adding to more aircraft in their fleet.
However, he noted to viewers: ‘It’s safer to assume you won’t have [TV screens]… and to bring your own device.’
To check what amenities your plane will have, the travel expert recommends checking the United ‘class leading’ app.
They pushed back ‘right on time,’ and made their way to one of Denver’s six runways.
As with Delta, they found two plug sockets on each row but one difference was the offer of a menu for United’s buy onboard program
In terms of the food offering, the couple were offered free bags of pretzels and chocolate quinoa crisps along with soft drinks. They also paid $10 to share the ‘Take Off’ box
Once they were on their way, Jeb said he took advantage of United’s seatback device holder and he purchased United’s WiFi package which is priced at $8 for members of the airline’s frequent flyer program.
He said of the internet offering: ‘Obviously not as impressive as Delta’s free option but $8 is pretty reasonable. United also offers free streaming onboard you can check the status of your flight to see if you’re on time.’
In terms of the food options, the couple were offered free bags of pretzels and chocolate quinoa crisps along with soft drinks.
They also paid $10 to share the ‘Take Off’ box which included salami, apricots, gouda cheese spread, fig spread, cream crackers, breadsticks, smoked almonds and Toblerone.
Serving up a tip, Jeb recommends always traveling with your own snacks as he says he has been on ‘plenty of flights’ where the turbulence has put a stop to the food and drink trolley service.
On the seat side of things, the person in front of Jeb had reclined so he couldn’t measure the pitch but according to United it comes out at 30 inches with 17 inches of width.
The YouTuber measured 10 inches of knee room, which was half an inch more than Delta.
He said: ‘The seat is a bit tight for working but I was able to knock out a few lingering projects so that was good.’
American Airlines: Chicago to New York
Jeb and Suzanne paid $168.90 each to fly with Delta from Los Angeles to Denver, with one personal item and a carry-on bag included
Like the other planes they flew on, the 22-year-old Boeing 737-800 had a three-three configured economy cabin
Jeb and Suzanne paid $168.90 each to fly with Delta from Los Angeles to Denver, with one personal item and a carry-on bag included.
Like the other planes they flew on, the 22-year-old Boeing 737-800 had a three-three configured economy cabin.
Perks of the seating areas included three power outlets per row and seatback device holders.
As with their first flight, Jeb and Suzanne endured a long taxi at Denver airport and it took them almost an hour to get to the runway.
However, Jeb said unlike the Delta’s flight deck crew, American’s ‘did a great job at explaining exactly what was happening.’
Once they were at altitude, Jeb purchased the airline’s WiFi package which cost ‘a whopping $19’ and was the slowest of the three he tried.
When it came to the seat dimensions, Jeb measured 30 inches of pitch, 17 inches of width and nine inches of leg room which was the ‘shortest of the day’
Perks of the seating areas included three power outlets per row and seatback device holders
There was however, a good selection of entertainment streaming options with ‘a ton of choices.’
As the couple passed over Cleveland, they were offered packets of Biscoff along with hot and cold drinks.
Despite their long taxi, Jeb said they actually reached their destination earlier than expected.
He explained: ‘Thankfully somewhere along the way the pilots worked with air traffic controllers and American Airlines dispatchers to adjust our route [due] to changing weather conditions and we reached New York sooner than we’d originally thought.’
Finally, when it came to the seat dimensions, Jeb measured 30 inches of pitch, 17 inches of width and nine inches of leg room which was the ‘shortest of the day.’
US’ BIGGEST AIRLINES: JEB BROOKS’ VERDICT
The biggest loser in the ground game category for Jeb was Delta.
Explaining his reasoning, he said: ‘When it came to ground game Delta’s was really unfortunate, the boarding process was chaotic and the lack of updates about our delay was utterly disappointing.’
United and American tied, as the travel expert said they were ‘both significantly and equally more organized.’
When it came to seats, Jeb said that they were ‘all nearly identical with 30 inches of pitch.’
Having said that, he crowned Delta and United as tied winners as Delta’s seat ‘offered a bit more width,’ and United’s ‘slimline seat offered additional knee room.’
Jeb said the food, ‘or lack there of,’ across all three airlines was’ disappointing.’
Of the three, United was the only one to offer a buy onboard program. For this reason, the carrier won on the food front.
Delta took second place with more snack choices than American, which only dished out packets of Biscoff and drinks.
Jeb said that the service was a big let down for them across all three carriers. He explained: ‘When it comes to onboard service we understand just how challenging it can be to work in the airlines, that said we’ve encountered loads of amazing airline employees in our travel.
‘Again it’s tough to judge any airline based on one flight, however, today just was not a perfect score for any of them.
‘Delta’s lack of communication was a real downer, on United the service was extremely slow to start and on American it just felt like the crew had somewhere better to be.’
For these reasons, Jeb tied all three airlines in last place.
On the entertainment side of things, Jeb said Delta was the ‘clear winner’ with seatback screens and free WiFi ‘across nearly their entire fleet.’
In at second place was United with ‘extensive streaming selections’ and well-priced WiFi, while American came third.
With 12 points, United was revealed as the winner of the US’ biggest carrier battle.
Delta flew in at second place with a score of 10, while American landed a seven.
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