American Airlines Admits Delta Runs A Better Airline

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When it comes to domestic airlines, it’s no secret that Delta Air Lines runs one of the best operation in the airline industry, and American Airlines has acknowledged that fact in this recent article by Forbes.


Per Forbes,

“Delta’s done a great job: hats off to them,” Robert Isom, American Chief Operating Officer, said Thursday during a Credit Suisse investor presentation, as he displayed slides showing American’s improving operational performance – including more completions, on-time departures and arrivals and fewer mishandled bags.

All three global U.S. carriers – American, Delta and United – have been working to boost operational performance, one of a series of key improvements that are benefiting passengers as the carriers enjoy an era of unprecedented profitability.

Isom said Delta “is operating at a level that’s never been seen before, especially for an airline that large.

“Right now, we’re not too far from Delta in terms of departing aircraft on time,” he continued. “Where Delta is distinguishing themselves right now, I think, is with their completion factor.”

The story goes on to mention that Delta completed 99.9% of its flights in the third quarter and went 40 days with no cancellations at all, which when you think of it is pretty impressive.
Taking a look at American they completed 99.3% of their flights, which is better than the 96.4% they completed in the first quarter.
departure board

Bottom Line

Delta Air Lines may not have the best loyalty program, but when it comes to operations, they do a great job and American has taken note and is trying to catch up to Delta.

At the end of the day, what’s more important to you? Would you rather have a great airline operation with on-time flights, or an airline that has a great loyalty program?
Feel free to share below your thoughts about who does a better job between Delta or American. 
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

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  1. If the difference is a slightly better performance record versus a vastly inferior frequent flier program, I would have to choose the better frequent flier program.

  2. That is impressive that DL had a 3rd quarter 99.9% completion rate. That being said, I’m fairly impressed that AA had 99.3%–and that United (I looked it up) had 99.1% and outperformed AA in NYC, ORD, and IAH ( and

    All things being equal, I haven’t had a UA flight cancellation in quite a long time–maybe 2 years now. Admittedly, I fly most often from SNA or LAX in SoCal, and my most common destinations are SFO, ORD, BOS, IAD/DCA, DEN, and CLT. So for me, personally, operationally UA has been very good. Delays with UAX are the biggest challenge with UA IMO…and flying into/from EWR, which I avoid as much as possible.

    All 3 majors are performing far better than I would have guessed, to be honest. Still, for me, the operational differences between UA, AA, and DL are reasonably minor–since I don’t live by a major hub for any of those. But I get upgrades far more easily with UA as Gold than I ever have with DL as Plat, and I still prefer UA’s route network and Mileage Plus. AA had a decent program for a brief time between UA devaluation and AA’s, but still I had easier times finding premium class awards on UA and its *A partners than I did on AA (though its OW partners weren’t too bad).

  3. Impressive figures for all three carriers, but remember, winter is on its way with its usual storms that impact UA and AA to a greater degree than DL. While all three share hubs in the NYC area, DL doesn’t face the challenges of ORD which even MSP or DTW face. With climate change, we saw even DFW fall victim to winter snow storms that shut down the airport and much of AA’s system for several days.

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