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Delta vs Alaska Airlines: which airline is better?

What are the main differences between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines?

Here are the five main differences between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines is Pacific Northwest based. Delta Airlines hubs are across the continental United States.
  • Delta Airlines has international flights and domestic flights. Alaska Airlines mainly offers domestic flights.
  • Both American airlines have frequent flyer programs. Delta Airlines is a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance and Alaska Airlines is a member of the OneWorld Alliance.
  • Alaska Airlines is a smaller company, while Delta Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the continental United States.
  • Delta Airlines is one of the traditional carriers, while Alaska Airlines is one of the low-cost carriers. 

In recent years, these two American Airlines have expanded their capacity and each offers some really great services in basic economy. Read on to learn more about Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines to decide which of these American airlines is the clear winner for you. 

Who’s the clear winner if I have to choose between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines?

Delta Airlines is known for being the most punctual of the major airlines in the continental United States. However, the Delta SkyMiles Program isn’t all that rewarding (unless you’re a SkyMiles member with elite status). It’s the clear winner if you’re looking for a large airline with high customer satisfaction for on-time performance. 

Alaska Airlines falls slightly behind Delta Airlines for its on-time performance. However, it is known for its solid customer service. Alaska Airlines cabin crew are known for providing better customer service than the airline industry standard. Alaska Air Group is also known for having one of the best frequent flyer programs of the American airlines.

What else should I consider if I need to choose between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines?

If you’d prefer supporting a smaller company, and your travels are within the Western United States, then Alaska Airlines is a great choice. Alaska Airlines’ main hub at Seattle-Tacoma International airport makes it the best airline for people living in the Pacific Northwest. Alaska Air group also offers plenty of domestic flights out of Los Angeles International Airport.

If you prefer traditional carriers, Delta Airlines might be a better choice. They have flights all over the continental United States as well as plenty of long-haul flights to international destinations from their numerous hubs. Delta is a major airline, with international flights and domestic flights out of its hubs at Seattle-Tacoma International airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Salt Lake City, and other airports around the continental United States.

What are the best things about the Alaska Airlines loyalty program?

These five things make Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program one of the best frequent flyer programs in the airline industry:

  • Alaska Airlines is part of the OneWorld Alliance. This means that you can use Mileage Plan points to fly on a network or more than ten major airlines.
  • Stopovers are allowed on Mileage Plan reward tickets at no additional cost. You can even book stopovers on one-way Mileage Plan reward bookings. This is uncommon with frequent flyer program reward bookings. 
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan points have amongst the highest value of any loyalty program points in the airline industry. They are currently valued at about 1.8 cents per mile.
  • Alaska Airlines offers plenty of flights from the continental United States to some of the lesser-known Hawaiian destinations. Since Hawaii is one of the most common loyalty program award bookings, you’re more likely to find space with Mileage Plan. 
  • Mileage Plan points never expire. To keep your Alaska Airlines points from expiring, simply make sure that your Mileage Plan account isn’t inactive for more than two years. 

What are the best things about Delta Airlines loyalty program?

These are the four best things about the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program:

  • Delta Airlines is a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance; being a SkyMiles member means you’ll have access to basic economy and first class seats on 18 partner airlines.
  • Delta miles are easy to earn. Many different banks offer Delta Airlines credit cards, and there are some pretty sweet sign up bonuses available.
  • You can make progress toward elite status without even flying. This is not common in the airline industry. Some of the co-branded Delta Airlines American Express cards allow you to make progress toward elite medallion status without flying.
  • Sometimes Delta Airlines runs sales for SkyMiles members. You can book flights for as little as 5000 SkyMiles points per flight segment. 

Delta Airlines vs Alaska Airlines: which of these American airlines is better for International Flights?

While Alaska Airlines is known for its fun outgoing cabin crew and high customer satisfaction, it has a limited offering of International flights. From the Alaska Airlines hubs in the Pacific Northwest, you can fly to a few major western Canadian cities. Beyond these international flights, the Alaska Air Group also serves Mexico City, resort destinations in Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Alaska Airlines mainline service is within the continental United States and to Hawaii. For Mileage Plan members, however, points can be redeemed on any OneWorld Alliance airline. This gives you a lot of options when it comes to international flights.

You can also book cash fares on domestic flights with Alaska Airlines with connections to international flights with OneWorld Alliance partners. For example, you could book a flight from Seattle-Tacoma International to Hong Kong with Alaska Airlines. Your first segment might bring you to San Francisco on a plane operated by Alaska Airlines, connecting to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. Alaska Airlines OneWorld Alliance partnership makes for a really seamless connection.

Delta Airlines is the clear winner between these two major airlines when it comes to the most international flights. Delta Airlines offers many different long-haul flights from its hubs across the continental United States. Long-haul flights to Asia are more common from the western United States and airports like Los Angeles International airport, Seattle-Tacoma International, or San Francisco. While long-haul flights to Europe are more common from the East Coast. 

If you’re a SkyMiles member flying on an international flight, you might consider using your Delta miles to get yourself out of the main cabin. On long-haul flights, Delta Airlines isn’t known for having the best basic economy service. Sometimes an upgrade to a higher class of service won’t cost you that many points. And in my opinion, it’s worth it for the first class seats with full recline, better customer service, and overall superior in-flight experience.

Delta Airlines vs Alaska Airlines: which of these American airlines is better for domestic flights?

If your travels won’t see you leaving the continental United States, there are some additional considerations that you should make before choosing between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Your point of departure and destination are the first consideration. If you’ll be flying from (or to) airports such as Seattle-Tacoma International, Portland, or anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest, chances are that you’ll have better options with Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines is a large airline in the Pacific Northwest, and throughout much of the western continental United States. For this reason, I recommend Alaska Airlines if you’re flying to or from these areas.

For much of the rest of the continental United States, you’ll find airports that are dominated by either United Airlines or Delta Airlines. Airports like Salt Lake City and Atlanta are major hubs from Delta Airlines. You’re likely to experience better customer service and on-time performance if you opt for Delta Airlines in these regions of the continental United States.

Unfortunately, there is no clear winner between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines when it comes to domestic flights. In addition to origin and destination of travel, you should think about your preferred loyalty program, credit card affiliations, and airport services.

Is Alaska Airlines one of the low-cost carriers in the United States?

While Alaska Airlines is a full service airline, they technically fall into the category of low-cost carriers. This is especially apparent with Alaska Airlines in-flight experience. You won’t find video screens, or meal services on long-haul flights. Alaska Air Group focuses instead on offering low fares and budget friendly flights to its customers.

Alaska Airlines flies an all-Boeing fleet of 737 aircraft. This is another way in which low-cost carriers like Alaska Airlines cut costs. Unless you carry an Alaska Airlines branded credit card, have elite status, or are travelling in first class, your first bag won’t fly for free. This is yet another way that low-cost carriers like Alaska Airlines cut costs. In fact, most baggage tagging and pre-security luggage handling for Alaska flights out of Seattle-Tacoma International are done in a self-service style, meaning that you’re actually paying to tag and check your own luggage.

What are the less noticeable differences between traditional carriers and low-cost carriers?

Here are three often overlooked differences between low-cost carriers like Alaska Airlines and traditional carriers like Delta Airlines:

  • Low-cost carriers like Alaska Airlines focus on route profitability, meaning they’re motivated to fill all of their domestic flights and international flights. Whereas traditional carriers like Delta Airlines sometimes let a marginal route continue to exist, if it adds more passengers to connecting flights through their hub airports.
  • Low-cost carriers like Alaska Airlines will fly a single aircraft type, often the Boeing 737. Traditional carriers like Delta Airlines will have multiple types of aircraft in their fleet.
  • Low-cost carriers often rely on add-on fees to make money, as they charge lower airfares. Traditional carriers like Delta Airlines include most fees within their ticket price, relying on other business avenues like cargo services.

In conclusion, there are some pretty big differences between Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. While there are many different factors to consider when making the choice between these two major airlines, it’s not always possible to predict where you’ll get the best customer service.

I’ve usually been happy travelling with both Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. Although, on a recent trip to Mexico, I was surprised to experience less than solid customer service from the Alaska Air Group. Check back soon for a post about how to best pack for a trip to Tulum, Mexico. Even still, when interacting with hard working ground or cabin crew, I always say that sugar goes a lot further than vinegar! Sometimes having a good attitude and friendly demeanour will create a positive in-flight experience regardless of the airline. And besides, you never know if it will land you free food, a free checked bag, or even a free upgrade to first class seats (unlikely, but worth a try!).

If your travels include Alaska Airlines, consider venturing north to Vancouver Island. Alaska Airlines is the only American airline to offer daily flights between Seattle-Tacoma International and Victoria International Airport. Before COVID-19, Delta Airlines also flew international flights between Seattle-Tacoma International and Victoria, BC. For the time being, Alaska Air Group is your only option. It’s a quick trip to one of the most beautiful international destinations served by Alaska Airlines. Here you’ll find some of the Pacific Northwest’s best beaches in the beautiful cities of Victoria and Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

Published by wandermileage

I love to travel, explore, and experience new places.

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