Delta Vs American Airlines: Which Has The Best Premium Economy?


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Delta and American Airlines have recently launched new Premium Economy seats named Delta Premium Select and American Premium Economy. These improved economy offerings bridge the gap between international economy and business-class cabins. They offer much more legroom, wider seats, larger entertainment screens, and improved recline.

If your ticket price is comparable, we investigate which American airline offers the best new Premium Economy seat and overall experience? Delta or American Airlines. It is worth noting that the old Economy Plus seats on United are fundamentally the same seats as economy with more legroom. For this comparison, United comes in a poor third and is not compared in any detail.

Delta Premium Select Seat Review

What do you get when you fly Delta Premium Select? The exclusive cabin will offer more space, elevated service, and “thoughtful amenities”. This means that you should be in an exclusive cabin, separate from economy, you get a more dedicated air host or hostess, and you will get food, drink, a blanket, pillow, and an amenity kit.

Seats will have up to 38 inches of pitch, up to 19 inches of width, with up to seven inches of recline. Delta Premium seats will also offer adjustable leg rests and headrests. Delta will provide a Westin Heavenly® In-Flight Blanket with a pillow and a TUMI amenity kit featuring Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials.

The Premium Select cabin will be introduced on the airline’s Airbus A350s and will feature 48 Delta Premium Select seats, as well as 32 Delta One suites and 226 Main Cabin seats. Delta Premium Select will roll out on its Boeing 777 fleet beginning in 2018. On the A350’s the cabin seat plan is likely to be 2-4-2, which compares to Economy of 3-3-3 and 1-2-1 for Delta One Business Class.

Entertainment will be presented on an up to 13.3-inch, high-resolution in-flight entertainment screen among the largest in its class, showcasing complimentary movies, shows, games, and noise-canceling headphones. There will also be in-seat power ports for large and small devices, and travelers will get the Delta Sky Priority service, which includes faster check-in, 2 checked bags, accelerated security, priority boarding, and expedited baggage service.

American Airlines Premium Economy Review

AA’s new premium economy product will feature a leather seat with 38 inches of pitch and 19 inches of width (similar to domestic First) with winged headrests that will hold your head in place if you are trying to sleep, a leg-foot rest, larger touchscreen monitors (than in economy), noise-canceling headphones, AC power outlets, and USB ports. Passengers on board will benefit from an enhanced dining experience, with upgraded meal options and complimentary spirits, beer, and wine. On the ground, customers will also be able to check up to two bags free of charge and will be given priority boarding ahead of those seated in the main cabin (economy).

The rollout of the American Airlines Premium Economy will be on their B787-9 aircraft (the airline has 22 currently on order). The premium economy cabin on the Dreamliner will feature seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration rather than the 3-3-3 layout in standard economy. If you want even more space in Premium Economy, select the bulkhead row.

Delta vs. American Airlines Premium Economy Seats

Both offer 38 inches of pitch and 19 inches of width (they say “up to”). The American seats are a rather depressing monotone grey. Delta’s premium economy seats will feature actual leg rests, while American’s seats just have footrests (except the bulkheads, which have leg rests). Some people love leg rests, others don’t, so the presence or lack of leg rests may impact your decision on who to fly with.

Delta vs. American Airlines Premium Economy Food & Drinks Manu?

The food offered on American will be similar to the meal service in domestic First. Expect something like a shrimp salad and a choice of cheese lasagna or beef. Judging by American domestic First, both dishes are tasty. Premium Economy also includes a selection of complimentary alcoholic beverages, including a very average red or white wine choice (don’t expect anything special), beers, spirits, etc. (currently served in a plastic cup – what are they thinking!?). Before landing, expect a continental breakfast, fruit, yogurt, and a pastry.

The Delta food and drink menu will include a pre-departure drink service followed by fresh, seasonal menu selections presented with Alessi cutlery and crockery designed exclusively for Delta.

Which American Airlines Planes Will Feature Premium Economy?

American will retrofit existing Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 777-200ERs, Boeing 787-8s, and Airbus A330s to have Premium Economy seating.

Which Delta Planes Will Feature Premium Economy?

Delta Premium will launch on Delta’s Airbus A350 aircraft. These A350s will feature 32 Delta One Suites, 48 Delta Premium seats, and 226 Main Cabin seats. Delta will also roll out Delta One Suites and Delta Premium on their 777 fleet, starting in 2018.

Are United, Delta, or American Airlines Blankets & Amenity Kits Best?

Delta Airlines offers the better blanket; a Westin Heavenly® in-flight blanket with pillow and a TUMI amenity kit featuring Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials, which is better than the basic blanket, pillow, and kit offered on AA Premium Economy. Find out which airlines I think offer the best Business Class amenity kits in the skies.

Noise-canceling headphones in Premium Economy are of lower quality than those in Business Class on both airlines.

United vs. Delta vs. American Airlines: Which Is The Best Premium Economy service?

So to answer my original question, Delta and American are both excellent with a full Premium offering. United’s Premium seats are in the same cabin as Economy with not many benefits over economy except increased legroom, so United comes in a poor third.

Premium Economy seat comfort on American Airlines and Delta doesn’t compare to Business Class, but with increased legroom, wider seats, and a moderate 14° recline, traveling in Premium Economy is certainly much more pleasurable than traveling in economy.

Possibly the biggest differentiator comes in the leg rest design. If you like a leg rest, fly Delta, where the premium economy seats all feature actual leg rests. If not, fly American, where the seats just have footrests (except the bulkheads, which have leg rests).

Delta offers a better blanket and amenity kit, but with a less appealing 2-4-2 layout on their A350, compared to the AA 2-3-2 layout on their B787-9 aircraft, which is obviously preferable.

To be honest, there is little to choose between these two Premium Economy offerings. They are both very similar domestic First, with a similar seat and meal service, and although Delta does offer a better amenity kit and blankets unless you have a preference to having or not having leg rests, the decision really comes down to price alone.

You can also read our top 10 best Premium Economy airlines in the world, top 10 Best Business Class airlines for long-haul travel, the best airlines to travel to Europe in Business Class and whether United, American Airlines or Delta have the best new Business Class seats.

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