As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!
     

Delta Airlines: Good Airfare But Not My Favorite Airline

This article was written by in Travel. 17 comments.


As of this past Saturday, my brother is now a married man. He and his wife live in California, and I spent Halloween attending their wedding and the past week visiting with my family in that state. I am happy I was able to take a week off from my day job and spend it with my relatives for the occasion. It was a beautiful ceremony and a fun reception and party, and within a few weeks, the new couple will be traveling to Costa Rica for their honeymoon.

The wedding was on Halloween, but costumes were not required.

I was happy to find a great deal on airfare for the cross-country travel. Delta Airlines offered a rate of $250 including tax for the round trip travel from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. This rate is about $100 less than the lowest rate I have ever paid for a trip for the Philadelphia or New York area to the Los Angeles area and several hundred dollars less than the typical rate.

In order to qualify for this low rate, I had to make a few sacrifices:

  • DeltaJFK is not my preferred airport. Either Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) or Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) are more convenient.
  • When checking in for departure online, I was charged $15 for checking a bag in addition to my carry-on luggage.
  • After arriving at the airport, checking my luggage, and proceeding through security, I was directed towards a shuttle bus to take us to our gate at a different terminal.
  • On the flight, we are treated to amenities like a full-featured, personal media center but if we want a meal we would need to pay at least $8.
  • The seats on the flight offer less legroom than I am used to from other airlines like JetBlue and Continental. By the time I booked the flight, exit rows and bulkhead seats were unavailable.
  • LAX is not my preferred airport, either. A better choice for the Los Angeles area, where my brother lives, is Long Beach Airport (LGB). When visiting my mother, I would prefer John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County.
  • Unable to check in online in advance for the return trip, I was charged $20 for having a bag checked. I also left a tip for curbside check-in.

Considering the price was half of what I might otherwise pay for a trip to California, I was willing to put up with a few annoyances. Although I like JetBlue, I feel no particular loyalty to any one company. I do not travel enough for frequent flier rewards to have any impact on my purchasing behavior.

Do you have a favorite or preferred airline or airport? Do you stick to your favorites or are you willing to compromise on comfort for a great airfare?

Photo credit: Hong Kong dear Edward

Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published November 2, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

Email Email Print Print
avatar
Points: ♦127,465
Rank: Platinum
About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dan

When I lived in Los Angeles, I was a platinum elite on Northwest for a couple of years. “Back then,” one could earn miles on Delta and Continental as well, so it was kind of nice to have THREE carriers to chose from. But I would generally book my travel on Northwest.

With the Delta merger and Continental departure, and changing travel patterns, I now just go for the combination of best fare and schedule. (Connections are a lot more inconvenient for me now.)

Reply to this comment

avatar Jack

I live in Las Vegas and I go out of my way to fly on Southwest. Here's a list I came up with a while ago about why I like them so much:

1. They'll let you check two bags weighing 50 pounds without paying anything extra. Of all the crap the airlines have come up with the past few years to try and find other ways to gouge customers, the checked baggage fee is the one that bothers me the most, especially since I'm far more likely to check something because of the stupid liquid rules. This fact alone is enough to make me go out of my way to fly on Southwest.
2. Their website makes it much easier to pick the flight you want than any other one I've seen. You enter where you're going to be at and where you want to go and they just tell you all the flights they have that day and what the pricing options are. So it's pretty easy to find the best time available to you and whether it's non-stop or not and what your options are. It's made clear to you that if you can adjust your time that you might be able to get a direct flight or maybe it will be cheaper so you can pick the option that's most important to you. Most other websites just give you a bunch of options that may or may not make sense and it's not clear at all what other options might be available.
3. Most of the time you can get a direct flight to where you want to go (note that I cheat on this one by living in Las Vegas, where Southwest is the major carrier).
4. If you want to change your flight because you need to leave early or something like that it only costs you the difference between what your original ticket was and what your new ticket will be. There's no BS where they charge you $75 or $100 just because you are changing your ticket.
5. Their frequent flyer program is simple and easy to use. You travel X times to earn Y credits and they send you a free round trip to pretty much anywhere they fly. You can use it anytime up to a year or so away, you can give it away to someone if you want and they pretty much don't have much in the way of blackout dates or capacity controls like other airlines. Any time I've tried to spend frequent flier miles on another airline it's just been a giant pain in the ass.

Reply to this comment

avatar Dan

When I lived in Los Angeles, I was a platinum elite on Northwest for a couple of years. “Back then,” one could earn miles on Delta and Continental as well, so it was kind of nice to have THREE carriers to chose from. But I would generally book my travel on Northwest.

With the Delta merger and Continental departure, and changing travel patterns, I now just go for the combination of best fare and schedule. (Connections are a lot more inconvenient for me now.)

Reply to this comment

avatar Pedro

I use American Airlines, you can get their miles much easier than any other airline and they have a tremendous international presence through OneWorld Alliance – British Airways, JapanAir, Qantas, CathayPacific, Iberia, FinAir, Jordanian — just to name a few. Easier to book rewards ticktets then any other airline

Reply to this comment

avatar RevancheGS

United used to be my favorite airline that flew out of ONT for both convenience, pricing and great mileage deals, but that's gone by the wayside in the last 2 years. Now I'm back to frequenting Southwest with really cheap fares, free baggage checking, generous cancellation policies, and generally good routes. It's just too bad they don't fly cross country directly.

Virgin America's service is actually quite good, too, with fairly decent pricing. Again, though, their routes are limited.

Reply to this comment

avatar Lance Tanner

I like to fly Airtran mainly because of the cheap prices, but my last trip to LA (ironically for my brother's wedding 2 weeks ago) was a disappointing experience. With my wife and 3 kids in tow, I paid a lot for checked baggage. I have half a mind to buy each member of my a full-size carryon and check nothing. $15 each way per piece of luggage is ridiculous.

Reply to this comment

avatar Samuel

Thanks for offering your brief review on Delta Airlines and why you don't really prefer this airline. I think all airlines should include their meals. This can become really annoying and expensive when you travel with your family. I also would rather have more leg space than to feel too cramped. It's hard to relax and sleep when there's less room.

Reply to this comment

avatar M-D November

I'm partial to Newark Airport (I detest PHL, and I can't justify going into one of the NYC airports), so I'm pretty much exclusive to Continental. Thankfully, work has me flying often enough (far enough?) that I've made Silver Elite for the past few years – benefits aren't fantastic (I rarely get upgraded, and there's been some recent degradation of Silver benefits to match other Star Alliance carriers), but I get to book the aisles & windows at the front of the Y cabin, I can use the priority check-in & security lines, and I avoid the baggage fees. So it's something.

LAX is a truly dreadful airport, but it provides the most options for non-stop transcon flights. LGB and SNA (and Burbank) are better airports, but their proximity to residential areas means noise limitations and an earlier close-down. And forget about wide-body aircraft.

The recent alliance changes have the airlines at each others' throats, and a clever consumer can take advantage. Most of the major airlines are running Double Elite Qualifying Mile promotions right now – 2 transcon round-trips will get you really close to bottom-tier elite on most carriers. If you've already got status, many of the legacy carriers are doing status matches to try and attract loyal fliers from other airlines – Continental & Delta in particular are actively trying to poach the other's elites.

Reply to this comment

avatar Amazon Coupons

Sound Good!! you are getting some nice travel deals.You can use it anytime up to a year or so away, you can give it away to someone if you want and they pretty much don't have much in the way of blackout dates or capacity controls like other airlines.

Reply to this comment

avatar cheapflights

Every person has its own taste. So, I can only say if you want to save your hard earned money then book your flight tickets from Globester.com & see the huge amount of saving.

Reply to this comment

avatar skiman723

I agree about Southwest. I was almost tempted by US Airways this year with their promotion to easily get elite status, but with the change fees and elusive free tickets, I didn't fully bite.

As far as airports go, since Southwest usually connects to the west coast anyway, I really prefer to fly into one of the secondary airports in LA like Burbank, Orange County, and Ontario. It is so nice to walk to your rental car instead of the long walk through the terminal and then riding the bus.

Reply to this comment

avatar Mitchell

Delta SUCKS!!!!! I flew from Salt Lake City to San Francisco on Oct. 30th. The ticket cost me $91 USD when I arrived at the airport I found out that there was a $20 USD charge per bag. I was traveling overseas. 1 bag was 58 lbs. and 1 bag 75 lbs. DELTA charged $315 USD for my bags ontop of the $91 for the ticket. Total $406 to travel to SFO.
I then proceeded on to Vietnam and EVA air only charged $408 for the ticket to go 12 time zones and a flat fee of $64 USD for the over wieght bags. $472 total to go from SFO to Vietnam. I WILL NEVER FLY DELTA AGAIN!! THEY SUCK!! Total RIP-OFF!!

Reply to this comment

avatar Mitchell

Delta…… TOTAL RIP-OFF!!!! $91 for a ticket on OCT 30 from Salt lake to San Francisco. 2 bags 1-58 lbs and 1 bag 75 lbs. $315 for just the bags on top of the ticket. total to travel 1 time zone $406. Traveled on to Vietnam on Eva air and the ticket was $408 and a flat fee of $64 for the over wieght bags. Vietnam is 14 time zones from San Francisco. That is why I say DELTA is a total RIP-OFF!!! I would rather ride the grayhound than give them money like that again!!! I will NEVER FLY DELTA AGAIN!!!

Reply to this comment

avatar Eric

I have never flown Delta so I can't comment on them.

However, I have flown Jetblue and they are by far my favorite. My favorite airport to fly out of is the Long Beach airport in California. It is a small airport which makes it a breeze to get in and out of. The only problem is, because it is such a small airport your travel destinations are limited.

Reply to this comment

avatar Candide

What probably should have been included in your analysis is the actual cost of getting to and from the airports, including gas, tolls, and parking at the airport for whatever number of days.

Reply to this comment

avatar Candide

What probably should have been included in your analysis is the actual cost of getting to and from the airports, including gas, tolls, and parking at the airport for whatever number of days.

Reply to this comment

avatar tommyh

If you recall earlier in this decade, Delta was headed to bankruptcy and was really heading in the wrong direction. Back in 2007 they got new corporate leadership and help Delta revitalize their brand image and since then I feel has improved dramatically.

I used to be partial to American. Former Gold elite, got upgraded here and there primarily flying between Newark Liberty and Los Angeles. They have excellent food and for the most part great service up front but as a gold you have to pay to get upgraded for the most part and they are semi-rare as there are many happy platinum’s and executive platinum’s who frequent the airline. In coach, American is not great. I’ve always found them to be very cheap, but their seats at the least are comfortable.

Last year i did a match status transfer to Delta, and haven’t looked back since. Staff is friendly for the most part, Upgrades are plentiful, and most of the time there are personal TV’s even in coach. The first class product isn’t as good as American, but it is good enough for me to be loyal to.

I’ve also had pleasant experiences with United. I do like their economy plus.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: