Alaska Airlines vs. Delta Air Lines: Which Is Right for You?

Delta Air Lines has better route availability, but West Coast-based travelers may opt for Alaska Airlines.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are U.S.-based airlines with plenty of perks. One is a member of airline alliance Oneworld, while the other maintains its partnership with SkyTeam.

If you’re trying to figure out whether you should fly with Alaska Airlines vs. Delta, let us help you. In this guide, we’ll break down where they fly, their loyalty programs, the in-flight experience and more.

Where they’re based and where they fly

Winner for most options: Delta


Although it’s a smaller airline than Delta, Alaska has been steadily growing in recent years. To date, it flies to more than 120 destinations in seven countries. It’s headquartered in Seattle, but you’ll also find plenty of flights from its hubs in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Anchorage, Alaska; and Portland, Oregon.

Alaska's international destinations:

  • Bahamas.

  • Belize.

  • Canada.

  • Costa Rica.

  • Guatemala.

  • Mexico. 


Delta is a much larger airline with broad international reach, including 4,000 daily flights to more than 280 destinations.

Delta U.S. hubs:

  • Atlanta.

  • Boston.

  • Detroit.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul.

  • New York.

  • Salt Lake City.

  • Seattle. 

Airline rewards programs

Winner for elite status and rewards: Alaska

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska undoubtedly has one of the best remaining loyalty programs in the United States. The airline has seen some devaluations over the years, but overall it maintains its status as heavily lucrative and generous to its members.

Alaska maintains a semi-dynamic award chart, which means you’ll pay a fixed price for award flights even when the cost is high. This is great for travelers as it allows them to get more value from their miles. Because of this and among other reasons, NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1.4 cents each.

Alaska’s Mileage Plan loyalty program is also generous, with great mileage earnings and other benefits for its members. In fact, a recent NerdWallet analysis ranked Alaska’s elite status top among nine U.S. airlines.

Delta SkyMiles

While there are still Delta SkyMiles loyalists, the airline has done its best to chip away at its program. This includes sweeping changes that were so harsh the airline had to walk some of them back.

Not only have elite status benefits been gutted, redeeming SkyMiles for a good value has become increasingly difficult. Among other reasons, this is why NerdWallet values SkyMiles at 1.2 cents each and ranks Delta sixth out of nine airlines for its overall elite status program.

In-flight experience

Winner of the sky: Delta


Alaska operates fewer flights than Delta and a much smaller route network, especially when it comes to long-haul flights. Because of this, it only operates cabins in economy, economy plus and first class. The first class seats that you’ll find will recline but don’t turn into beds; they resemble large recliners more than anything else.

Those in first class are entitled to complimentary meals and alcoholic beverages, and those who are flying in economy plus also receive free alcohol. Anyone seated in economy will get nonalcoholic drinks and snacks.


Delta maintains several cabin classes, including economy, economy plus, premium economy, business and first class. The type of seat you’ll get will depend on where you’re flying.

Premium economy is akin to domestic first class as you’ll find on both Delta and Alaska, with large reclining seats. Those in Delta One, the airline’s premium business class product, will enjoy a lie-flat seat, high-end meals and complimentary alcohol.

Those traveling in economy will receive free snacks and nonalcoholic beverages, though on long-haul flights meals and alcohol are included.

Airline credit cards

Winner for its variety of credit cards: Delta


Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Wondering about Alaska’s credit card vs. Delta’s offerings? Alaska has just one co-branded credit card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. It’s issued by Bank of America® and delivers surprising value for its$95 annual fee. This includes a free checked bag, priority boarding and an annual companion certificate.


Delta also offers co-branded cards issued by American Express, with a variety of annual fees. Their benefits include free checked bags, companion certificates, airport lounge access and priority boarding. Terms apply.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express provide Delta Sky Club access to cardholders. Terms apply.

The most expensive card, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, is $650 per year. Still, Delta’s range of options will appeal to a broader audience, making this a win for the airline. Terms apply.

Other factors to consider

NerdWallet's best airline analysis this year compared Alaska, Delta and other airlines across multiple factors; here's how these two airlines compare across subcategories.

Delta vs. Alaska: The results

In total, Alaska is the winner in a face off against Delta.

Delta has better in-flight entertainment, more reliable operations, wider credit card options and flights to more destinations compared to Alaska.

However, Alaska outcompetes Delta in terms of its rewards rate, its basic economy ticket, the value of its elite status program, lower fees and better pet policies.

In the end, you will get where you're going on either airline. Choose the option that serves your preferred airport or flies to your ideal destinations.

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