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Finding the right airline that satisfies all of your travel preferences — from comfort to cost — can get your trip going on a great start. When choosing which airline to fly with for your next trip, there are many factors to consider. All of this may have you wondering: Is Delta a good airline?
Below is an overview of how Delta Air Lines ranks against other major carriers. You’ll also learn what it’s like to be a Delta passenger and what considerations to make when flying on this airline so you can confidently decide if Delta Airlines is a good option for you.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
NerdWallet's airline analysis
For starters, Delta SkyMiles falls near the bottom of NerdWallet’s recent analysis for the best airline rewards program. Based on categories like the airline's elite status program, rewards point value, COVID-19 response and additional fees, the airline tied with United Airlines and beat out budget carrier Frontier, but fell short of Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.
NerdWallet ranked Delta a little higher when it came to the best airline rewards programs for frequent travelers. Out of nine airlines, Delta ranked fifth. See that breakdown here.
» Learn more: The smart money guide to Delta SkyMiles
What is Delta Air Lines like?
If you’re thinking about booking a flight on Delta Airlines for your next business trip, vacation or other travel, here’s what you can expect as a passenger.
The airline offers six seat classes to choose from. Its seat class options include:
Basic economy: A basic economy seat is located in the main cabin, but it’s nonrefundable and non-upgradable. Seats are assigned only after you’ve checked in.
Main cabin: Passengers with a Main Cabin boarding pass have more flexibility. You can select your preferred seat within the Main Cabin of the plane, have access to upgrades and can change your trip details without additional fees.
Comfort Plus: In addition to selecting your own seat, the Delta Comfort Plus seat class gives you up to 3 inches of additional legroom and provides your own assigned overhead bin. No more hunting for overhead storage for your carry-on luggage on a full flight.
Premium Select: If you have a long-haul route on a widebody aircraft, a Premium Select seat gives you greater comfort during your flight. This includes more recline, an adjustable footrest and a wider seat. Premium Select passengers also receive exclusive amenities and enhanced food and beverage options.
Delta One: Travelers who are looking for a luxury business class experience might enjoy the Delta One seat class. It’s available on certain long-haul domestic and long-haul international flights. Delta One passengers are assigned a dedicated in-cabin attendant for a duration of their flight, in addition to a 180-degree bed seat, curated meals and complimentary beverages, and luxury amenity kits.
First class: Delta offers first class passengers a dedicated in-flight attendant. You’ll also receive priority boarding and deplaning, up to 8 inches of additional legroom and additional reclining features.
Depending on the level of comfort and services you want, along with your budget, you’ll likely find a seat class that suits your needs.
Booking a flight with Delta Air Lines is straightforward with the Fly Delta app or on its website. You can also find Delta Air Lines on various third-party travel booking websites, potentially at different pricing. Members of the Delta SkyMiles Loyalty Program can also browse available flights using their award miles.
» Learn more: The guide to booking award flights on Delta Air Lines
You can check in up to 24 hours before your departure time. You have the option of checking in through:
The Fly Delta app.
The Delta website.
The curbside desk.
A check-in kiosk.
The Delta counter.
To check in in person, you’ll need your boarding pass and a government-issued identification.
The order in which passengers board Delta aircraft is based on seating class. Delta offers pre-boarding for active duty military and customers who need additional assistance or time to board, such as elderly passengers and families with young children.
Delta One customers (if the aircraft offers Delta One seats) and Diamond Medallion members are next to board, followed by Premium Select and first class passengers.
Delta Comfort Plus customers are then welcomed onto the aircraft, and other SkyPriority members follow. Then, there are three separate boarding groups for main cabin passengers, followed by basic economy boarding as the last group.
The Delta SkyMiles loyalty program is free to join and well worth it if you’re planning to become a regular Delta passenger. You can earn award miles for main cabin seats or higher, as well as on everyday purchases through a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express. However, be aware that basic economy flights are not eligible for earning Delta SkyMiles awards.
» Learn more: The quick start guide to points and miles
Other things to consider
In addition to cost and the experience you can expect as a Delta passenger, there are other factors to examine before deciding whether Delta is a good travel option for you.
While not a total splurge, Delta is on the slightly more expensive side, ranking fourth-worst for fees among the nine airlines we tracked in our analysis. However, baggage costs can be offset using a Delta co-branded credit card that offers free checked bags.
» Learn more: Which airlines have the best (and worst) fees?
Nerdwallet values Delta SkyMiles at 1.2 cents, but with some strategic redemptions, you can squeeze more value out of each mile. There are no blackout dates, and you won't lose miles due to account inactivity — they never expire so long as your account remains open.
Delta uses a dynamic pricing model for its award flights, so it's harder to know what an award fare will cost you prior to searching for a specific flight.
» Learn more: How much are points and miles worth this year?
AirlineRatings.com assessed the safety of 435 airlines, based on factors like:
The airline’s crash and serious incident reports.
Aviation audits from the airline’s governing and industry bodies.
Safety initiatives and more.
Its latest report revealed that Delta was in its top 20 list of safest airlines, ranking 14th.
One area that Delta particularly excels at is its on-time performance. According to OAG, a travel data provider, Delta ranks second on the North American regional list for flight punctuality. Delta outranks third place Alaska and falls just below first place Hawaiian.
In a certified rating by Skytrax, Delta received a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. This rating is based on the quality of Delta’s airport and onboard product offerings, as well as the staff service its passengers receive. Other factors in the rankings include:
Food and beverage options.
If you're considering Delta
When deciding whether Delta is a good airline for your next trip, examine the type of travel you’re planning. This includes your budget, in-flight comfort preferences and whether your big-picture goal is finding a loyalty program to stick to.
For example, according to NerdWallet’s analysis, Delta ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to its basic economy ranking and fees. Budget travelers might find more affordability elsewhere. Also, budget travelers who want to earn status might be able to earn status faster through another airline program since Delta SkyMiles doesn’t offer award miles for basic economy seats.
Generally, Delta is a good airline for travelers who want a comfortable flight experience overall at a cost that’s in line with its service and offerings.
Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card