I recently completed a roundtrip flight to Dallas/Fort Worth from Atlanta. I thought it would be fun to fly American since I was going to visit a buddy I worked with there. Not to mention, another friend was flying in on American and it would be convenient to link up for transportation to the hotel. As it turns out, my best shot at upgraded travel was flying American to DFW and Delta home. I also thought it would make for a fun blog post – comparing the two experiences.

American: ATL to DFW

I arrived at the airport way early, and as luck would have it, PreCheck was in great shape and I cleared in exactly 4 minutes. Off to the Admirals Club, which is actually one of my favorites. It could use a little updating, but the staff is nice, there are lots of power outlets, and I could grab some food. Most of my visits to this club have been in the early morning hours, and it’s always been uncrowded. Not so at 2PM on a Thursday with weather all around. Most seats in the club were taken, but I found a spot at the bar (which also has power outlets) and ordered a sandwich. By the time this was done, a 30 minute delay had posted on my flight. Not that significant, and actually understandable given the weather between ATL and DFW, but annoying nonetheless. I have some natural loyalties to American, given that I worked there for years, and still have many friends there, but the black cloud of delays and cancellations that follows me on AA is almost comical.

The time passed pretty quickly, and in truth, we only boarded a few minutes late. There was quite a bit of chaos on the concourse with one, if not two, mechanical delays at other gates based on some of the PAs being made. I was happy to get on the plane, in this case a 737-823 with Boeing Sky Interior, but with cloth seats and overhead IFE. I suppose I like cloth better than leather, but the IFE options with the newer leather seats are better overall. One thing I was reminded of vs. Delta, the seat pitch on American’s 737’s is better or at least feels better than the Delta MD-88s and -90s I’m most often flying.

The F/A did offer water to passengers late in the rather chaotic boarding process. Given the delay, I wasn’t really expecting a PDB at all. She was friendly and pleasant, so no complaints. In the end, we pushed back only 11 minutes late. We sat, along with everyone else headed west, for over an hour due to numerous air traffic re-routes around the weather between us and DFW. Eventually, things started moving, and we were on our way.

Inflight service was delayed as we picked our way through the weather, but once that was done drinks were on the way. I was quickly reminded of something else I appreciate about American’s domestic first class.

american delta first class comparison

I like the warm nut mix. It’s a nice snack, goes well with anything, and is just a little something extra that I appreciate. This was followed by another little extra that is a real differentiator between American and Delta in the 2 to 3 hour market.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 8.14.10 AM

American’s first class snack offering was either a fruit and cheese plate or buffalo chicken dip. I went with the dip as I had not tried it before. It was quite tasty and accompanied by a few pieces of pita, celery, carrots, blue cheese, and some bread. It was actually perfect for the length of flight and I liked the fact that the smaller tray could fit on the tray table alongside my Macbook with ease.

All in all, this was a pretty solid 700ish mile flight, and before long, we were landing in DFW.

Delta: DFW to ATL

My flight home was aboard a Delta MD-88. Weather was much better for the return and everything was on time. After some Centurion Lounge and Sky Club time, I was seated on board. As noted above, Delta’s seats are a little tighter than American’s in my experience, but as long as no one reclines into your lap, it’s fine. As usual, even in the face of relatively chaotic boarding, full PDBs were offered to the first class cabin. I declined as I was happy with my bottle of water, but it’s a gesture I always appreciate and things were off to a good start.

Once airborne, drink orders were taken and the snack basket was passed around. I could swear I saw the lead F/A crack a smile once or twice at other customers, but something felt “off” about his interactions with me. Almost like he’d seen me on board before and I was mean to him or something. I really don’t know how to explain it. Except, he hadn’t seen me on board before, I’m a “please” and “thank you” person to a fault, and I’ve never once complained about a Delta flight attendant. Strange. He did offer a refill, which I accepted, but otherwise, it was one of those interactions I just don’t get. Maybe he was having a bad day. It is a rare day when I say my American flight was better than my Delta flight, and it was for reasons other than warm mixed nuts and a snack. In the end, we arrived just a little early, and I was on my way home.

The Bottom Line

I’ve been called a lot of things in the comments section of this blog like Delta apologist, sympathizer, boot licker, fan boy, and other names I can’t repeat, but the American experience was the better of the two this time. Was my underwhelming Delta flight just a one-off thing? Based on numerous Delta flights, I’m sure it was. In any event, I’ve got four more opportunities to be wowed by Delta this month, and two on American. We’ll see how it goes. In the end, they both got me where I was going safely, and that’s the real bottom line.

-MJ, July 19, 2016