Why I Chose Delta For an Upcoming Flight

I have a wedding coming up in September, and I was faced with a unique situation on the way back. Five different airlines were similarly priced, all requiring a single stop. I know that what’s important varies from person to person, but I thought this would be a fun look at what makes me tick and what I imagine others might consider as well.

Let's Pick an Airline

First of all, I should note that my wife and I will be meeting in NYC a few days beforehand coming from different places, so we booked those separately. This was just a look at the return flight, and we only wanted White Plains. As long-time readers know, we always prefer Long Beach over LAX, but Long Beach required two stops coming back from White Plains and the times weren’t great, so we opted for LAX. One last caveat – for some, the frequent flier program is what matters, but I couldn’t care less. I mean, I’ll earn miles when I fly, but I don’t ever make a decision based on the program.

With that out of the way, we found flights ranging from $141 to $190 on these five different airlines. The price difference in that range didn’t matter to me, so we just focused on what would work best. Here’s how our thinking went from least interesting to most.

  1. AirTran via Atlanta, leave 629p, arrive 1159p
    In my mind, AirTran is (or should I say “was” since it’ll be Southwest soon enough) never a serious contender for my business. I like the XM radio and the wifi, and I love the 717 (or any Douglas-built airplane). But the knee-crunching legroom on the 717 (which would take us to Atlanta) is just too much. Last time I flew AirTran was in December 2005 from Indianapolis to Ft Lauderdale, and my legs were angry. I’m not a tall man, but even on that 2 hour flight it was painful. Plus, the very late arrival time in LA just wasn’t going to work well for us.
  2. United via Chicago, leave 1202p, arrive 436p
    I’ll admit that this one started out strong. With the shortest total duration of any flight, it seemed attractive, but then I looked under the surface. That first flight is on a Bombardier CRJ. That’s not comfy for 2+ hours either. Then it was on to an A319 with no internet and only overhead screens. But beyond that, the short 53 minute connection time made me anxious, especially going from Express to mainline. If you land on the F concourse and have to fly out of C in Chicago, that’s a hike. And if there’s a delay, there’s no room for error. Not worth it, even though this was the cheapest at $141.
  3. American via Chicago, leave 1240p, arrive 525p
    On the surface, this looks good. It’s a short (but not too short) 1h10m layover in Chicago and we get to ride on a 767 to LA. It’s hard to turn down a widebody on a domestic flight, unless the widebody provides a substandard experience. First off, we would have had 2 hours on an Embraer Regional Jet to get to Chicago. That airplane is somewhat tolerable for a single traveler on the side but not for two people sitting together. I mean, not for that long of a flight. And then we’d be rewarded with one of American’s old 767s which have no internet and just overhead screens showing movies. Why would I want to subject myself to that if I had other options?
  4. US Airways via Philadelphia, leave 305p, arrive 845p
    It may sound strange to some, but US Airways provided a compelling option. First of all, it was a short hop down to Philly on a Dash-8 prop. If the weather was good, that would be a beautiful ride. Then we’d ride a nice A321 home with wifi onboard to keep us busy. A 1h45m layover sounded good for notoriously crowded Philly, and this almost made the cut. The holdback? The 845p arrival was later than either one of us liked. Also, we would be ready to go earlier in the day and it would have just been a waste of time stick around until 305p. Otherwise, this was a good option.
  5. Delta via Atlanta, leave 1030a, arrive 454p
    This may seem like an odd choice since Atlanta isn’t exactly on the way to LA and the 2+ hour layover may not be ideal, but for us, this was the best option. A longer layover never bothers me if I’m not in a time crunch, because it just builds in some nice slack to the process in case something goes wrong. The flight to Atlanta is also on an regional jet, but it’s the more comfortable CRJ-700. And the flight back from Atlanta will have wifi and live TV onboard. That will make this trip go much quicker. I’ve said in the past that I prefer to be unplugged, and that’s true. But the concierge business means that I need to be in touch at all times just in case something goes wrong. Wifi becomes more and more important.

So that’s that. It’s funny that the decision-making process is so different than it would have been just a few years ago. The thought that internet would even be a factor is new, but it’s becoming more important. Usage is still low, but I have to assume it’s going to change over time.

I know everyone has different criteria for choosing flights, so what would you have picked?


104 Responses to Why I Chose Delta For an Upcoming Flight

  1. If, for some reason, I was choosing between these flights, I’d probably take the US Airways one. My top two would be United and US Airways, as I collect Aeroplan (Air Canada). I would prefer not to switch terminals, and I know which flights get held in a holding pattern if there are any delays. That, plus the fact I enjoy flying on little turboprops means I would choose US Airways.
    Of course, for domestic flying in Canada, the decisions are usually easier – if you need to connect in Eastern Canada, you are probably going to choose AC, if you have a connection in Western Canada, you are probably going to choose WestJet, and if you are going straight from your office in downtown Toronto, you are going to choose Porter…

  2. BigSix says:

    My first choice almost always involves avoiding the CRJ100 or CRJ200 aircraft. These A/C are terribly uncomfortable and really ruin the experience of flying (which i normally enjoy). Secondary is the frequent flyer program that I am a member of because of the possibility of an upgrade to first class. Third would be the connection time (between 1 and 2 hours is best) to allow for issues like you said. WiFi is not a big deal for me as I use the flight time to work offline or relax and read.

  3. Dave Braddick says:

    I’d take US Airways as well; I used to fly on Dash-7s and later Dash-8s between Plymouth and London and there’s something about flying those props that never gets old.
    I flew on my first 717 on a White Plains to Atlanta trip with AirTran earlier this year; I only have little legs so legroom wasn’t really an issue and the staff were great. XM Radio was cool too, never had that to play with before.

  4. Fred says:

    I probably would have gone with Delta or US Airways here. Honestly, I prefer the Dash 8 over any CRJ or ERJ, but another thing to consider is that summer weather in the afternoon in Atlanta can cause problems. Big problems, considering how many flights can be canceled with a single thunderstorm. (No HPN-DTW-LAX?)

    Generally though, I usually select the best times and which airports I prefer to connect in, and if it’s within $50 or so of the cheapest, I’ll take it.

  5. Dan says:

    I would have chosen US or DL in this case. As others have said, my first choice is to avoid the CRJ and ERJ. My first commercial airline flight was on an SF340, so I sort of have an affinity for those props. I would have enjoyed the ride into PHL.

    But as was pointed out, ATL gets nailed nice and hard with thunderstorms in the summer. I hope you consider enrolling in this Cranky Concierge program to help you work around flight delays.

  6. Jeff says:

    Isn’t it a given that, American has the oldest most rundown aircraft? I wonder why anyone actually CHOOSES to fly American. If you ever get a chance to fly Air Canada, do it. You will see what it’s like to fly in nice modern aircraft with individual video screens in each seat, even on regional jets.

    • Sanjeev M says:

      Maybe true for the MD80’s and 767’s, but their new 738’s are just as good as anyone else’s.

    • Fred says:

      Also, Delta’s (ex-NW) remaining DC9s are somewhat older than any MD80.

      Oh, and people would and do fly American because it’s cheaper and/or more convenient than other airlines, depending on where and when you fly of course.

    • Bob K. says:

      The Mad Dogs and even the widebodies are just shot to heck, and show the age on the inside. Yuck.

  7. Jordan says:

    I’m coming from a slightly different place, because as an Atlanta native, I’m a SkyPesos whore. (I know, kind of like a crack addiction — it’s really no good for anybody.) Thus, I’d choose Delta in a heartbeat. That being said, now that almost all of Delta’s coast-to-coast flights offer both wifi and live tv/movies/tv shows/halfway decent music selection, it really does make a big difference in flight time/experience. I flew from MCO-LAX on Delta last year with ridiculous headwinds, and it took over 6 hours. That’s almost like going to Europe. Had I been stuck on a 767 with no internet and looping overhead movies, I might’ve gone mad. I admit that in general Delta’s inflight experience can be hit or miss, but the amenities certainly put the odds in favor of a decent trip.

    • Jason H says:

      Us DEN fliers will love it when Delta finally finishes upgrading/replacing all the old 757-200’s with looping overhead. We used to have the pimped birds, but now those are just for peak time. Middle of the day DEN-ATL is all looping 737-800s and 757-200s. Painful at times!

  8. B.E. Ward says:

    I would’ve just gone to JFK for a nonstop to LGB.

    • frank says:

      +1, NON STOP!

      all those connections are via (overcrowded) hubs.

      • Driving HPN to JFK is not for the faint of heart, especially for those unfamiliar with driving in the greater NY area. You have huge potentials for delay on various parkways, bridges, etc., even on a Sunday morning. Taking the train to Manhattan then the subway to JFK would take forever!

        • Its about what? 2 to 2 and a half hours? Although, I wonder how much of a price premium you have on the air travel side..

        • B.E. Ward says:

          It looks like there’s at least one shuttle company. I’ll take a 2 hour shuttle ride and 6 hour nonstop over an 8 hour trip with a connection and an RJ. Especially in the summer when dealing with ATL, PHL, or ORD.

          • Fred says:

            Keep in mind that you want to get to JFK probably 90 minutes early, especially if you are flying at a peak time in the afternoon. HPN is much smaller, so 30 minutes or so should be fine there.
            I’m not sure how much the shuttle costs, but you also have to factor that into your cost calculations too. MNRR/subway would be cheaper but also take 2-2.5 hours.

        • Josh says:

          I have been in Cranky’s situation many times…living in White Plains. Debate 1: To go to JFK for a direct flight, or HPN and connecting. Honestly, toss a coin. If the weather is bad, you’re in trouble somewhere. Getting to JFK from White Plains via mass transit is a pain in the butt. I usually elect to get a $135 car service to JFK.

          2: Time of day matters a lot at HPN. Avoid early morning and late afternoon. Brett, you will be very amused by the operation at HPN.

          3: Airline to fly on: I usually look at the delay/cancellation statistics for the individual flights, then I cross my fingers and hope the flight leaves HPN on time. I always try for a flight that has at least a 2 hour layover, in case of issues at HPN. Last week I was delayed while sitting on the plane for 60 minutes because of “airspace congestion in NYC”, for a flight to FLL.

          Having said all that, if you’re in Westchester, HPN is very convenient. In good operations, I can leave my apartment at 5pm, at the airport by 5:10pm, through security by 5:20pm, and on a plane by 5:30pm…..

          If I’m around, I’ll happily drive you to the airport!

          • CF says:

            I’ve actually been to HPN a few times before. When I worked at United, I used it as my way into the city when flights were full. I love that airport, though if you are going into the city, it’s not exactly the best way to go.

    • CF says:

      We had no interest in fighting traffic to JFK (the return is on a weekday, not on the weekend). And of course, a nonstop would avoid the potential for delay in connecting hubs but it would also put us in the delay capital of the world at JFK. Also, it would be too much of a pain to deal with trains, subways, airtrains, etc. Getting to White Plains will be a simple 10 minute cab ride.

      • B.E. Ward says:

        Well, you’re arriving at LAX at 5pm. Good luck with the 405.

        JFK is really the “delay capital of the world”? EWR and LGA by far have more ATC delay initiatives. The only thing that’ll mess up JFK during the middle of the day in September is a thunderstorm, and the biggest impact on someone already at JFK would be a departure delay if the inbound plane diverts. But there’s the beauty of departing from an airline’s largest hub.. they can shuffle the planes on the ground around to aid in the system’s recovery (assuming your LGB crew is already there).

        Also, if you have thunderstorm problems at JFK you’re almost just as likely to have the same problem at HPN (sans the shuffling options).

  9. Nice photo Monty.

    Since it was a wedding, I would chose to stay home…..lol

    I would have looked at connecting time as a big factor as nothing goes as planned in the air so the more time the better. Departure/arrival time would be next thing to check and then the airline if times were about the same.

    Having worked for an airline and flying non-rev you get used to flying in one direction to get where you are going in the opposite direction so N.Y. to California via Georgia isn’t a big deal.

    And when you travel to/from a multi airport metro area you do have more options which help.

    Did you check fees to see how they fit into the total cost?

    • Bob K. says:

      I’ll take a 40m connection time if I don’t have anything planned for the rest of that day and if the 2nd flight isn’t the last one of the day. Otherwise, I want something closer to an hour.

    • CF says:

      We aren’t checking bags, so fees don’t really matter here. I mean, we’ll have plenty of time in Atlanta to grab food. Not much else really applies here.

  10. DesertGhost says:

    I would have made the choice primarily on arrival time, also. But I have to ask: Isn’t the personal space (seat size, leg / knee room, etc. pretty much the same on a CRJ-200 as it is on a CRJ-700?

    I value my personal space over the cabin size. Widebody? Narrowbody? Heck, any body that gets me there safely is fine as long as the seat is reasonably wide and I don’t get my kness crunched by the seat in front of me.

    • Jason H says:

      Not at all! A CRJ-700 is taller and a bit wider. It feels like a 717 that got shrunk slightly in the dryer versus a CRJ-200 which feels like… well.. an oversized cardboard box. Additionally many of Delta’s CRJ-700s have or are getting first class and wi-fi. Makes it almost civilized.

      • CZBB says:

        the 700 and the 200 are the same height and width, major difference is the height of the windows. The 900 (and QK’s 705s) have a lowered floor which gives a little more headroom and larger windows.

        All that said, I would have probably also driven to JFK and taken a non-stop on B6 to LGB; as an hour driving vs an hour change of planes is still going to make the (more direct) non-stop faster. Especially given it also saves 20 mins on the LA side by going into LGB vs LAX.

    • Thank you. I’ve never flown on an RJ. I may book an E-jet (most likely on Frontier) just to check it out.

  11. Is the Air Tran aircraft really that much smaller? I’ve never flown them so I have no first hand experience. Looking at the info online the seat pitch is 30″ which is maybe 1″ less than some aircraft. Seems like most have 31″ in coach.

    Is there something else about the seats? Just curious.
    Personally I would have taken US Airways for the miles.

    • Jordan says:

      My sister just flew SJU-ATL on AirTran yesterday. Subjectively, she said the seats just felt more crammed together and less maintained (despite the fact that their fleet is supposedly on the newer side). Objectively, when her rowmate in 21F adjusted her seat, her seat in 21D shook pretty roughly. Admittedly this is one (very petite) girl’s opinion, but it sort of addresses your question.

      • Craig says:

        I’ll agree with Cranky and Jordan’s sister: AirTran’s seating on the 717 is just painful. For what it’s worth, Qantaslink’s 717s operate with fewer seats in an all-coach configuration (115) than AirTran’s do in a dual-class (117).

  12. Leaving alliances and FF miles out of the discussion, it seems that AA provides the best schedule of the choices above and, unlike UA, their connections at ORD are usually simple.

    Unlike Brett, I do not care about in-flight connectivity and entertainment. Smart phones, iPads, laptops, kindles, actual books and magazines… do we not have enough ways to amuse ourselves for 4 or 5 hours without surfing the web?

    My priorities (assuming price-sensitivity within $50 or so net of applicable fees): nonstop, departure/arrival airport (when applicable), schedule (departure/arrival times), connection details (airport and layover time), aircraft. IFE a distant last place, if I consider it at all. Your results may vary…

    • Well he mentioned wanting Wi-Fi for his business, not amusing himself. Although, I bet you he’ll just spend the day viewing funny YouTube videos..

      • You are correct, I see now that I somewhat clumsily went from a specific comment referencing Brett’s need for connectivity (without restating why he wanted it in the first place) to a general rant about airlines’ massive investment in IFE that wasn’t toward Brett individually as much as the general public, most of which I believe is quite capable of entertaining themselves while being out of touch for a few hours. Sorry if I implied otherwise specific to Brett’s situation, not my intent at all.

  13. Jason H says:

    Great writeup Cranky. I end up going through the same exercises myself with some modification (I’d rather slit my wrists with a rubber spoon than fly Soutwest or AirTran). It’s always interesting to see what others go through when points don’t matter.

  14. KB says:

    I would have gone with the Dash to PHL. I’ve done the PHL-HPN flight before and it is a fun ride. We leveled at 6000 feet and cruised right over the Lehigh Valley. Plus you’d have enough time to grab a Lager and crab fries at Chickie’s and Pete’s before hopping on the A321, which can be very nice if you get a new one.

  15. Johnny Jet says:

    Cranky! I grew up near HPN but I almost always take the nonstop out of JFK to LAX. Makes it so much easier.

  16. Bobby says:

    I would have chosen the Delta flight through ATL myself. If I have to get stuck and sit in a terminal for any length of time, give me ATL any day. Not only are the terminals large but there are plenty of seats to stretch out on if I need to kill some time. Also, their wi-fi actually works and there are a lot of choices in the various food courts. An added plus-the folks that work in the terminals are really nice people. As I said, give me ATL any day.

  17. Mario says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not too bothered by lack of wifi or movies on a flight and I would never let the presence/absence of either influence my itinerary. I agree it’s nice to have wifi if you need to work (yikes!) or make last minute reservations, but so far I haven’t missed it. As for movies—most airline movies are crap. I’m happy to read my Nook and listen to my MP3 player or just snooze. Otherwise, I look at price, potential weather/connectivity issues, and time aloft as my main criteria.

  18. Megan says:

    Delta for miles, American for the 767.

  19. Noah says:

    I would have taken the 45 minute train then gone jetblue from JFK-LGB nonstop….The train is shorter and more comfortable than any regional aircraft, and Jetblue is probably the beset domestic coach product. And it gives you your coveted LGB!

    • yes ….actually great choice with JetBlue….!

    • Fred says:

      The train is 45 minutes to Grand Central… then another 40-70 minutes to JFK. Also, JFK is much larger so you would want to get there at at least 60 if not 90 minutes early. 30-40 should be fine for HPN. Adding all this up you get a good 2-3 hours more than from HPN.

  20. Rob Bohn says:

    RE: UA via ORD and the F & C Concourses:

    I would have agreed with you on that nasty hike but a few years a go I discovered the UA shuttle bus that runs between Gate C-9 and Concourses E & F (Gate E-2A).

    Helps a lot since I’m based in Indy and that seems to always fly into/out of Concourse F but “normal” flights always seem to be in Terminal 1…

    Now if only MSP would do the same…

    • Bob K. says:

      > Now if only MSP would do the same…

      Ugh. This. MSP has some very long transit times if, as is often the case, you have to go from one end of the airport to the other. IMHO its transit times are pushing the longest out there, especially for its size. Maybe it’s just the fact that many connections involve walking past several parking garages on the secured walkways that makes it more of a mental thing…

      To be fair, CLT, another mid-size hub, also has some decent walks in there, but the hub and spoke layout of the terminals at least keeps the transit time between gates somewhat manageable. MSP isn’t arranged quite as logically.

    • CF says:

      I actually didn’t know about the shuttle, so that does make a difference. But even with the shuttle, 53 minutes is a very short connection. (Last time I was there, we came from Indy and landed on the B concourse!)

  21. Sean says:

    I can see why you chose Delta, but who wants to earn SkyPesos?!?

  22. IHSW says:

    My choice priority goes: 1. Direct flight, 2. Larger aircraft, 3. Which hubs. Given your choices, Cranky, I probably would’ve gone with Delta as well. Delta has treated me well, and I like the direction they’re taking IFE and the like on their planes. It’s overall a nice experience for the most part.

    I also generally like United (I know, I know…) but I have been trapped in ORD more times than I can remember so I will not take an itinerary that goes through there if at all possible. I’ll happily pay *more* to not fly through ORD.

    American is so far outclassed they have to be offering one hell of a deal at this point for me to consider them. Plus the whole ORD issue again.

    AirTran/Southworst don’t enter the equation. I won’t fly either anymore, ever, for any reason, at any price, due to some sitcom-level, aggressively, offensively terrible customer service on more than one occasion. Plus, yes, AirTran’s seating on the 717s should be classified as a Geneva Convention violation… although I assume (hope?) SW will solve that eventually since it’s such a common complaint.

  23. Paul says:

    If you get on US not expecting much service wise, I really like the A321 for a long flight. I’m tall and it justs feels more comfortable. I also really like the DH8.

  24. Euroschu says:

    I definitely would take the DL flight, especially since you are traveling for leisure — but want the ability to stay connected for business. I applaud DL for installing WiFi on all domestic planes (and soon the larger regionals), and the in-flight on-demand entertainment system is fantastic! I fly between coasts at least twice a month and have made DL my preferred carrier for the ability to stay connected, be entertained and the increasingly better in-flight amentities. Now if they could only install the entertainment systems on the old Northwest 319 and 320’s as soon as possible to make connections via MSP more bearable!

  25. JayB says:

    Fascinating, your “how our thinking went….” Only you, and your readers, my guess, would ever be able to think through this less-than $200 purchase as you did. And, probably no two of us would make the same decision as you did, and if we did, probably for different reasons.

    My guess is that you’ll be the only one on your itinerary that did anything other than take the cheapest fare flights, as Expedia, Travelocity, etc., or their travel agent displayed for or told them.

    Fine, but did anyone in this industry actually try to give you information or sell you why their fares/flights/aircraft/cabin service/routes were what you should take? What are the airlines actually competing over, that would inform me and convince me to use them, given an itinerary like yours?

    The complexity and proliferation of fares and fare rules (*additional rules, fees and conditions may apply), the confusion created by use of code-shares and “operated bys,” the typical non-existence of helpful airline customer service enroute, etc., etc, (not blaming TSA security on the airlines, but…)…wow, what an industry!

    Again, a great post, Cranky.

    • CF says:

      It’s a great point. There is a lot that went into this choice from my end, but most travelers wouldn’t even know the difference because it’s simply not presented to them. That’s one of the biggest problems in this industry.

  26. Cranky, I’m in complete agreement that it’s horrible to make a connection from the regional planes to the mainline on UNITED in ORD. It’s just as bad in IAD — their new Aerotrain makes it even longer !!!

    For that reason, I avoid UNITED like the plague if it involves a change of planes in ORD or IAD.

  27. SAN Greg says:

    I try to avoid any aircraft with middle seat configurations if travelling together w/spouse – this usually trumps other considerations. So any itinerary with the MD-80/717 product, EMB 170/190 and 767 are preferred. It is the reason I booked AA from SAN to MIA in November as we are on an MD-80 SAN-DFW and 767 MIA-LAX. No big deal being on a CRJ for 25 minutes for the LAX-SAN segment.

  28. SAN Greg says:

    Perhaps I should emphasize that I try to book on equipment with pairs of seats, as most of us know that sets of 3 ‘do’ exist on the MD-80’s and 767!

  29. Ahh HPN! I briefly had what was almost the best.dorm.room.ever. Which was located right here http://inmff.net/330 (Zoom out a bit to get the full picture, I can’t figure out how to make Google Maps do what I want..)

    All the take offs and landings off on 16/34 at HPN went right by my dorm window. Simply was the best feature of that room. I could’ve done without the crazy pot smoking artist, and the trombone player and his girlfriend. (I was a bit uptight as a college freshman..) But watching all the planes come and go was awesome!

    I think I too would’ve gone with the US Airways flight. I spend far too many of my flights on 737s and A32Xs. While I’ve got nothing against the Renton Field Birds (Alas, the Boeing Field 737s are all but gone.) or even the Toulouse birds. its great to feel yourself that close to the metal that you get in a prop…

    I keep wanting to get on a Q400. I keep trying to slip them into our annual trip from SEA to SFO/OAK, but going via BOI to get them is a bit odd, and my aunt who books the tickets usually scratches her head as to why I want that routing….

    • Scott says:

      Was looking at LAS-YVR routings tonight, and one of the cheap AS routings was all Horizon-All DH8-400 LAS-STS-PDX-YVR

    • Ben says:

      I spent a full year in 2001 in a 3rd floor dorm room there overlooking the valley that serves as final approach for HPN from the south. Back then it was everything from 737s and a320s on down operating in and out of there. I spent many hours watching the planes fly past there. If only I was the avgeek that I am now back then.

    • SEAN says:

      I assume you went to Purchase College?

  30. You know, its kinda sad the times didn’t work out to do HPN-MCO to MCO-AUS-LGB That’d been an awesome routing…

  31. SubwayNut says:

    One thing that I find interesting is the fact no one has mentioned yet that Delta is the only airline left on that list that still gives out free snacks (I’ve had quite a few ‘meals’ of a Biscoff Cookies, peanuts, and pretzels). Used to specifically choose Continental knowing I’d get a little meal out of the flight compared to the other Airlines if the price was the same.
    Those snacks and the free TV are one reason JetBlue is great although no wi-fi for CrankyConcierge.

    • bill says:

      SubwayNut, JetBlues’ snacks and TV are great but don’t forget the legroom on their a-320s. I’m a tall person and that is huge selling point.

  32. CJTaylor says:

    This is a thoughtful post. Finally, i am no longer flying as a loyal mile collector..I now consider lots of other factors to optimize my travel experience…

  33. David M says:

    You didn’t mention what day of the week this was (or if you did, I missed it), but I take one look at that 4:54pm arrival time at LAX and hope it’s not a weekday. It lands you right in the middle of LA’s rush hours. Makes 8:45pm on US Airways sound a lot more attractive to me.

    • CF says:

      It’s a weekday, but I really don’t have much trouble getting back from LAX, even at that time of day. Sure, sitting on the 405 sucks, but I go around it. And we’ll have 2 people so we can go in the carpool lane. I never really mind arriving at LAX – it’s departing that requires so much more time.

      • Ron says:

        Yeah, the problem with LGB is that it’s too close to LAX :-) So even though I prefer LGB for both the airport experience and the distance to home, its advantage over LAX is minor enough that it typically loses to LAX on grounds of schedule, price, or convenience on the other end.

        Besides, Green Line -> Blue Line -> Long Beach Transit is quite reasonable during normal commute hours; it’s late evenings when transit becomes a pain.

  34. Bobber says:

    Always UA, never trapped at ORD.

    (that was predictable)

  35. Russell says:

    I would have had a hard time with this decision because of several factors. I generally decide based on price because I’m a poor college student. As such, SWA is generally my airline of choice (free bags are a great incentive). This not being an option, I look at AirTran which has always appeared as a white trash airline to me, so automatically I avoid it. My next deciding factor is stops. I like visiting new airports, so it’s a toss up between US, UA, and AA. However, I will look at plane size and for me, the bigger, the better (I recently booked a trip from SLC-ORF and chose the 11 hour trip because I had 3 legs with a 757). As such, US and UA is eliminated. Thus, AA would have been my choice. BUT UA is a close second because I like their service.

  36. BJ says:

    I love to see that you (CF) build a bit of fat into your transfers when not time critical. I do this to ensure stress free travel however my wife thinks I’m mad.
    Being tallish I would take whichever gives the best legroom or allows payment for an exit row. Personally I would go USAir before Delta but thats only because I’ve always had good experiences on their flights.

  37. I would have gone for the American option and the B767, however I am paraniod like cranky on having time available, between flights, I like a buffer zone, and yes I am the one who turns up for a domestic flight two whole hours before leaving, crazy, no, never missed a flight, ever, never….and I happen to like airports, they have those thingys that fly….planes that’s it.

  38. Jim says:

    So it seems like your primary concern is the type of plane being flown, and the onboard services. My primary concern is price, so I would choose the cheapest. I really don’t care if I have an inch less legroom or no internet for a few hours. And remember that airlines reserve the right to substitute a different plane for any flight at any time.

  39. Andrew says:

    I would take the US Airways flight…good connection time (long enough, but not overly long), and a pretty direct routing.

  40. I’m afraid I would have chosen American as the arrival time is acceptable and beats the gamble that a summer storm will leave one trapped in Atanta using Delta – EVEN with a 2 hour edge. I know, because it has happened to me.

    Additionally, the track record of US AIR has already beed reported by Cranky as being on the bottom of the scale in arrivals and baggage problems.

    I would prefer to add frequent flyer miles on an older aircraft that would probably meet the scheduled time of arrival and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

    • CF says:

      Whoa, what? US Airways has had a stellar baggage rate as of late and the on time percentage has been in the top tier as well. That airline is running a very good operation these days.

  41. Bob K. says:

    My general priorities:

    (1) Price. I eliminate all options that aren’t within ~$50 of the lowest **reasonable** option that I’d consider taking (e.g., ignoring any redeyes, 5hr connections, etc).

    (2) Stops. I’ll pay $30-50 RT to go from a stop to a nonstop routing.

    (3) Schedule & Times, including transit times to/from airports. This usually gets it down to 2-3 options for me, often with the same airline. Also included in here is which airports have the nude-o-scope machines- I always opt out, but will avoid airports/terminals with the nude-o-scopes if possible.

    (4) Connections. 50-90 min is ideal for me, but I’ll take 40m if the flight I’m connecting to isn’t the last one out that night.

    (5) Airlines and planes. I flew out of DFW on AA enough that I despise the worn-out Mad Dogs (MD-8x), and the 3+3 seating that comes with them. Prefer widebodies and props. Avoid RJs on flights > 90 minutes unless they’re the only option in my price range. Really want to try JetBlue and Virgin, but I don’t live within 1 hour of the ocean, so haven’t had a chance to try those yet.

    (6) Connecting airports. I must be the only person on earth who actually likes ATL. Hate to connect in MSP and DFW (DFW is great for O&D, way too spread out for connections). CLT is okay, not a huge fan of ORD.

    I mostly sleep or read on planes, so IFE is a waste for me. FF miles are irrelevant to me. I generally try to avoid SW & AirTran if there are similar legacy options just because I prefer flights with fewer leisure pax.

    I’m 5’10”, and just assume that my legs are going to be crunched no matter the airline. I care more about side space on the window side, which is why I hate the RJs- the side of the plane curves in a ton, eating into the space of the window seat.

    Cabin service to me is all the same on most US domestic flights, down to the lowest common denominator. It plays no role in my decision.

    • CF says:

      I realize I’m just taking a small piece of a very long, thoughtful comment, but I really never realized something. Every single flight on JetBlue ends or begins within an hour of the ocean, doesn’t it? That’s crazy.

      • Bob K. says:

        > Every single flight on JetBlue ends or begins within an hour of the ocean, doesn’t it? That’s crazy.

        I haven’t officially checked it out to be sure, but it would certainly appear that way to us in the “flyover” states. Same with Virgin.

        The next time you interview someone at JetBlue or Virgin, this would be a great question to ask. Yes, some of us away from the coasts may not be “hip” enough for JetBlue, but there are plenty of us who would pay a few bucks more to fly it, especially in the Southern/Midwestern cities where pricing is insane (Bentonville, Cinci, and perhaps Memphis come to mind off the top of my head).

        • CF says:

          I checked the website before posting my comment and it appears you’re right. Certainly they serve cities that are more than an hour from the ocean, but those flights all go to cities that are within an hour.

        • Well they fly to Salt Lake City and that is not near the coast and not many ‘hip’ people in SLC, so there is hope for everywhere in the USA for JetBlue to land…..lol

  42. C’mon

    “That airplane is somewhat tolerable for a single traveler on the side but not for two people sitting together. I mean, not for that long of a flight.”

    Getting two seats on the single side wouldn’t be an option? I guess you two are still in the newlywed phase. Take a cue from my parents, both in their 80’s and married over 50 years – on three abreast seating they always take a window and aisle and politely decline all offers to be seated together.

    Based on this limited sample, comfort, not togetherness, (at least when traveling) is the secret to a long marriage!

    • CF says:

      Well, that’s a good point. Not in the honeymoon phase, but my wife generally thinks of me as her pillow, so we sit together. But maybe I should suggest that next time.

      • David says:

        Whenever possible, I reserve aisle and window for Fiance and I hoping that no one gets assigned the middle seat. If so, one of us just switch, because Fiance also enjoys using me as a pillow if we can’t stretch out. She has an amazing ability to sleep on planes. Usually asleep before take off only waking up upon landing.

  43. Simon says:

    As someone else says above, not just taking the cheapest and knowing what the different levels of service are is probably the sign of a proper airline geek. Given these choices, my head would say DL or AA for the miles, but my heart says US – for the prop plane and then (and I’m surprised you didn’t mention this!) the ninja seal on the airbus.
    Having said this, I would always pay more for a non-stop.

  44. Pierette says:

    I read through all of the comments, and thought to myself that some of the reasoning was good, some interesting, some not so much, and on and on and on, and if you ask a million different people, I’m sure you would get a million different answers.

    Then it dawned on me, most of the responses sounded like they were from business travelers. That led me to my next thought, which was, when booking a flight, or making any arrangements for that matter, you need to know your client, and what makes your client happy.

    In this case, Brett should have been asking himself, on this happy occasion type of trip (meaning non-business), what would ultimately make my wife happy? As most of you husbands know, if your wife is not happy, then you are probably not going to be happy either.

    So given all the other things that have already been discussed in regards to the flight options, (and since I do not know Brett or his wife personally) here are some examples of things that if I were married, I would want my husband to consider when booking a flight for the two of us: can we get seats together, even if that means you have to sit in a middle seat so I can have a window seat? Are the arrival and departure times to my liking? For example, I might be less cranky if we get home at a reasonable hour, so I can get up and go to work the next day, and not feel like a total zombie. If we have to make a connection, is the connection time sufficient between flights? Meaning, I don’t want to be running my a** off between terminals, especially if I’m wearing heels or carrying a big a** carry-on bag, and I’d probably like time to pee as well. Are we connecting somewhere interesting? There are always possibilities of bad weather, rude people, delays, etc., at any airport, but can I charge my phone? Get a massage? Buy a new book? Or a Brighton purse? Or – fill in the blank – at our connecting airport? When it comes to the plane itself, I like amenities like anybody else, but I’m a nervous flyer, so I wouldn’t want an option with a little “buzzy” plane, or a connection that lands in a city where you have to fly in and out over mountains, etc. Or better yet, does the airline serve free wine? Then, if my list of conditions was fulfilled, I wouldn’t really care which airline/connection/price/whatever my husband picked.

    I could go on and on, but I guess my point is, you have to know your client (or yourself), know what’s most important to them, and what will make them happy. In Brett’s case, I would have gone with the Delta via ATL option as well, due to the combination of the acceptable arrival and departure times, and the onboard wifi to keep them both busy. Personally for myself, as a single mother of two, my priorities when picking flights would probably be way different!

    • CF says:

      I did ask my wife, and she definitely had input. The later arrival into LAX wasn’t ideal for me, but she really didn’t want to do it, so that put some pressure on the decision. We could have had seats together on all the flights, so that wasn’t a concern. She really wants to just watch movies. So either a place to plug in her laptop or in-seat video. Delta fit the bill on that one.

  45. Crissy says:

    I’m just glad to see that when I pick a flight I use a lot of the same “logic.”

  46. chris says:

    so you chose a rj over an airtran 717? you must be familiar with the reliability of a regional airline versus airtran therefore I find this tough to agree with

  47. Graham says:

    So I loathe Atlanta, so that puts Delta out for me. I’d go with US Airways. I find it odd that so many people here don’t have FF preferences. Maybe it’s because I’m tall, but I will always try to book US Air because its where I have status. That gives me possible upgrades and at the least, extra leg room in the emergency exit. For a tall guy, this is priceless to me.

    • james says:

      I agree — I’m just a 2P on United this year and the perks are enough to keep me consolidated to Star Alliance this year as well – to keep status next year.

      Early boarding, short security lines, free checked bag, and the up front E+ seats are well worth it. I flew row 20 on Frontier last week and completely forgot how long it takes to deboard a plane. Bin space for my normal size rollerbag is no longer a worry.

      I’ve only made a First upgrade once in about 15 flights, but if the above perks remain the same I’ll keep flying UAL. — and of course I’m in Denver with frequent travel to ORD, LAX and SFO.

  48. John says:

    Delta is always a very dangerous selection. They have a very nasty habit of not maintaining their aircraft resulting in delays or cancellations. But looks like you will be on a newer aircraft for the LA leg so it should be ok assuming Delta can actually get you to Atlanta. But they contract that part out.

    Still, it’s Delta and Atlanta. It’s Delta. It’s Delta. That alone is a major beat down.

  49. Eric in ICT says:

    I like your logic/explanations. My choice probably would have been the AirTran option, as I’ve just had a better customer and on-time experience with them, especially going through ATL, than with DL. Love the XM and was just on an AirTran 717 a couple of weeks ago and didn’t mind the legroom (or lack thereof) and I’m 6’1″. Also, my motivation would be to fly AirTran while it’s still around and before it’s absorbed into Southwest. Interesting that onboard amenities are playing much more of a role in consumers’ purchasing decisions when it comes to air travel.

  50. jason says:

    I’d have chosen AirTran, mainly because i do not fly enough anymore to have status, and 9 times out of 10 I can pay to upgrade on AirTran with no problem. That long cross-country flight would mandate I fly in first class. You probably have status with most all of the majors, so for you the decision process would be different. I always look for the cheapest way to get an upgrade (cross-country on AirTran not cheap to upgrade, but usually availability is really good).

    • CF says:

      Believe it or not, I have no status on anyone and haven’t for years. I think the last time was when I barely qualified for silver on US Airways back in 2005/2006. I prefer to just spread my flying around and never care about upgrades.

  51. bobsmith says:

    Interesting thought process. I definitely agree with you on building a cushion, especially in the summer, on the layover. For me, at the risk of sounding meek, I would opt for mainline service. I don’t love being on a regional jet or turboprop during a storm or potential for turbulence so I try to avoide the smaller regionals and turboprops whenever it is possible.

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