Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Airlines -- United vs Delta

I've flown twice in the past month, each time being on different airlines. Usually there is at least a few months between flights, so I don't tend to notice much difference between the airplanes or the airlines. However, I've noticed recently that there are some big differences. All of these comparisons are in coach; I have flown United first-class before and did not have nearly as many problems as I have in coach.

United is the airline I have flown on the most. I always assumed that they were a better airline because they were slightly more expensive and I knew that my father preferred them. However, I found this past weekend that I was not very fond of their airplanes or their service. The flight was very uncomfortable in every aspect: the chairs were not proportioned correctly at all for my body size, giving me a headache; every setup they have for movie screens is horrible, they tend to either be too far away or right above you; the headsets they require you to use are uncomfortable; and they never have room for everyone's carry-on luggage.

I noticed a distinct difference between airplanes while flying United, as well. I flew on a Boeing 757 as well as an Airbus. The Boeing 757 was the most uncomfortable for 2 reasons:

  1. The first reason relates to the seats themselves. It seems that the seats are meant for anyone about 5'6" in height or taller (they can extend up). However, if you are short and do not have a lot of body fat to push you out from the seat in the lower area, the headrest pushes your head forward in an incredibly uncomfortable fashion. Sitting up straight is impossible due to the headrest, and slouching is impossible due to the lack of legroom.
  2. The second reason I disliked the Boeing was the fact that the underseat area for luggage was smaller for the aisle seat than for the other 2! I could not fit my bag easily under the seat, even though the same bag had fit fine on my earlier flights when I was in either the center or the window seats. This problem baffles me, and made my flight even more uncomfortable than it would have been in one of the other seats; ironically, I have always preferred the aisle.

The Airbus was only marginally better. The seat backs were still horribly painful to rest my head on, but slightly less so than on the Boeing. The aisle seat also seems to have the same size area for carry-on luggage as the other 2 seats. But everything else was about the same as the Boeing.

Delta Song was a MUCH better experience. I flew them last month, and was impressed by their planes and service and even more impressed after flying United this past weekend. They incorporate the movie screens into the backs of the seats, so that everyone has their own screen. This setup eliminates the problems of United's screen placement. Also, everyone can watch a different tv program or play a trivia game, making it less likely that you will be bored out of your mind. These screens actually make the provided entertainment entertaining as opposed to something to notice in the background. Their seats are also much more comfortable for those of us that are height-challenged. I was not forced to have my head at an awkward angle if I leaned back in my seat, which in itself makes me want to fly Delta Song from now on.

On a related note, they give you the small earbud headphones which do not pinch on your head as the other ones can, and they will always fit in your ear. I enjoy these much better, although I wonder if they are usable for people with hearing aids? Also, we did not have any trouble fitting our carry-on luggage on the plane. With United, they never had enough bin space for everyone.

The only problem with the Delta/Song acquisition is that Song is being phased out and soon everything will be just Delta. I hope they keep all the great things about Song instead of phasing those out with the name, because right now Song is the only airline I will actually put effort into getting tickets on. Previously I just picked the cheapest ticket, but if I can get a Delta Song ticket for a little more, I'd be willing to pay it (emphasis on "a little"...I'm still a poor grad student).

Too bad I signed up for United frequent flyer miles instead of Delta Song miles...maybe I should buy stock in Delta if they are going to keep the Song amenities.


Mario Ceste said...

It is a shame that Independence Air went under because it was cheap and convenient. Before Independence Air, it was very expensive to fly from Dulles to the Northeast (or anywhere for that matter).

Megan said...

Yea, and apparently Hooters air used to charge $99 from Boston to SC, but now they either don't exist or don't do that route (can't remember which). So sad. :(