Air Canada vs Delta: Which Is Better

Air Canada and Delta are two major airlines to think about when booking a flight. Both airlines fly to many destinations around the world. They have nice planes and offer first class, business class, and economy seats. Air Canada is the biggest airline in Canada. Delta is one of the biggest US airlines.

They both have loyalty programs to earn free flights and upgrades. To decide which airline is best for your trip, compare their routes, amenities, prices, and reliability. See which airline flies where you want to go. Look at the types of planes and cabin features. Check reviews on their customer service.

See which loyalty program works best for you. Consider fees for things like baggage and seat selection. Air Canada and Delta are both good choices, so review all the factors before booking to find the best airline for your next trip.

Fleet and Onboard Experience

The size, age, and amenities of an airline’s fleet impact the overall onboard experience.

  • Air Canada operates a mainline fleet of over 173 aircraft with an average age of 12.7 years old. This includes Boeing and Airbus narrowbody and widebody jets used for short-haul and long-haul flights.
  • Delta has a much larger mainline fleet of over 864 aircraft with an average age of 15.5 years. Their fleet is also dominated by Airbus and Boeing jets.
  • Both airlines have retrofitted many of their older jets to include amenities like personal seatback entertainment screens. Delta offers screens on nearly all mainline flights, while Air Canada has them on most narrowbody aircraft and nearly 30 Boeing 777s.
  • For long-haul widebody aircraft, Delta operates more premium-configured planes like the A350 and certain retrofitted 777s. These offer suites or business class pods with extra privacy and comfort. Air Canada has some 777s and select 787 Dreamliners with updated interiors, but Delta leads in premium offerings.
  • In economy, Delta has started rolling out new seats with added padding and larger entertainment screens on some aircraft. Air Canada has not upgraded economy seats across the board.
  • For regional flights, both airlines rely on smaller Bombardier, Embraer, and other jets operated by regional partners. These generally lack seatback screens or premium offerings besides business class on certain aircraft.

Flight Network and Destination Coverage

Flight Network and Destination Coverage

The route networks and flight connectivity of an airline play a major role in determining where you can travel.

  • Air Canada and Delta both operate extensive domestic networks in their home countries of Canada and the United States respectively.
  • For international routes, Air Canada and Delta have significant transborder networks to each other’s countries. Air Canada serves over 35 U.S. cities while Delta serves 13 cities in Canada.
  • Beyond North America, both airlines use their hub airports to connect to destinations across Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.
  • Delta operates over 300 international destinations in over 50 countries. Air Canada serves nearly 60 countries with over 220 airports internationally.
  • As members of Star Alliance and SkyTeam global alliances, the two airlines supplement their networks with partner airlines. This adds additional connectivity and destinations travelers can book using miles or points.
  • Air Canada has stronger coverage of Canadian destinations, particularly secondary cities. Delta has greater domestic U.S. connectivity with more non-stop flights between American cities.
  • For international long-haul, Delta flies to more global destinations while Air Canada focuses more heavily on Canada, the U.S., Europe and select cities in Asia and South America.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs and frequent flyer miles are a major perk of choosing an airline. Air Canada and Delta both offer extensive loyalty programs.

  • Air Canada’s Aeroplan program has over 5 million members. Members earn Aeroplan points that can be redeemed for award flights on Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners.
  • Delta operates the SkyMiles program with over 100 million members. It uses a miles-based model for earning and redeeming award flights on Delta and SkyTeam partners.
  • Both programs offer elite status tiers like Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond for flyers who travel frequently. Perks include priority services, lounge access, bonuses, and upgrades.
  • Aeroplan and SkyMiles allow members to earn points through not just flying but also credit card spending, hotel stays, car rentals, and other everyday purchases.
  • Awards can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, merchandise, and more. Both programs offer variable pricing where award prices fluctuate based on demand.
  • For earning rates and elite qualification, Aeroplan focuses on distance flown in kilometers while SkyMiles bases status on dollars spent and miles flown.
  • Air Canada awards no longer have fuel surcharges attached, while Delta sometimes adds fuel fees to international awards.

Customer Service and Reliability

The quality of customer service and how reliably an airline operates flights affect the overall travel experience.

  • For customer service, Air Canada has faced criticism and low rankings for long hold times, unresponsive staff and poor complaint resolution. Delta places higher for service quality and responsiveness.
  • Regarding baggage handling, lost luggage rates for both airlines are similar – around 5 bags lost per 1000 passengers. Air Canada has lower satisfaction scores for luggage handling and tracking capabilities.
  • Looking at on-time performance, Delta has ranked higher than Air Canada based on recent data:
  • In 2022, Delta’s on-time arrival rate was 81.2% while Air Canada lagged at 77.6% according to Cirium.
  • Delta also had lower cancellation and delay rates compared to Air Canada in 2022.
  • For flight completion, Delta again outperformed Air Canada by completing 99.7% of scheduled flights in Q3 2022 versus 98.3% for Air Canada.
  • Air Canada has faced labor unrest and strikes from pilots and other staff that have disrupted operations. Delta has maintained more labor peace and fewer service disruptions.

Pricing and Value for Money

1Pricing and Value for Money
Pricing and Value for Money

How airfares are priced and the overall value received for your money are key considerations when choosing an airline.

  • Air Canada and Delta both utilize dynamic pricing where fares frequently change based on demand. Prices for the same route can vary significantly.
  • For domestic economy routes within Canada and the U.S., respective analysis shows:
  • Air Canada’s average domestic fare is around $CAD 244.
  • Delta’s averages approximately $USD 201 for U.S. domestic flights.
  • For transborder routes between the U.S. and Canada, fares are similarly priced between the two airlines.
  • For long-haul international economy fares, average prices are:
  • Air Canada: $CAD 530 roundtrip
  • Delta: $USD 812 roundtrip
  • Delta offers more premium seating like Delta One business class on a greater portion of widebody jets. These seats come at a premium over Air Canada’s business class.
  • Both airlines charge for seat selection, checked bags (1st free for elites), onboard food and other ancillary fees. These extras add up.
  • Delta offers greater opportunities to use miles for awards on more routes, potentially increasing value.

Baggage Policies

Checked baggage allowances and fees can greatly impact travel costs. Here’s how the baggage policies of Air Canada and Delta compare:

  • For carry-on baggage, both airlines allow 1 personal item plus 1 standard carry-on bag for free. Size limits are nearly identical.
  • For checked bags, the free allowance and fees for economy passengers are:
  • Air Canada: 1st bag free up to 23 kg, $31 CAD for 2nd bag
  • Delta: 1st bag free up to 23 kg, $32 USD for 2nd bag
  • Exceptions are made for elites and premium cabins with additional free checked bags.
  • For bags above the size/weight limits, overweight and oversize fees apply up to around $100-$200 on both for extra heavy bags.
  • Air Canada charges a $50 CAD unaccompanied minor fee per one-way flight for kids under 12 needing supervision. Delta charges a similar $50 USD fee.
  • Musical instruments, sports equipment, and special item handling fees can also apply on both airlines.

In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity

Having in-flight entertainment systems and internet access can make a big difference for passengers during flights. Here is how Delta and Air Canada compare:

  • For seatback in-flight entertainment, Delta offers screens with hundreds of movies, shows, games, music and more on nearly all mainline aircraft. Air Canada has screens on most narrowbody planes and some widebodies.
  • Streaming entertainment to personal devices is also available on most Delta and Air Canada flights through onboard WiFi. Content varies by aircraft type and route.
  • WiFi internet access is available on nearly all Delta mainline flights. Air Canada has WiFi on most narrowbody aircraft but only on some widebody routes. Delta has greater connectivity.
  • Pricing for WiFi varies, but expect $5-10 for 1-2 hour passes and $15-40+ for 24 hour passes on both airlines. Delta offers free messaging.
  • Power outlets for charging devices are available at most seats on Delta and Air Canada aircraft. Power port location and AC vs. USB outlets vary by plane type.
  • For premium cabins, both airlines offer enhanced entertainment and amenities like larger screens, premium content, and complimentary WiFi.


After an in-depth look at multiple factors, Delta is the winner when comparing Air Canada versus Delta Air Lines. Delta operates a larger, more premium fleet with amenities like seatback screens. Their extensive route network provides greater North American and global connectivity.

Delta also edges out Air Canada for customer service, on-time performance and operational reliability. While fares are competitive between the two, Delta offers more options for luxury travelers. Air Canada remains a solid budget choice, particularly for Canada flights, but Delta comes out ahead for overall experience and amenities for most passengers. When choosing between the major North American carriers, Delta emerges as the preferable airline.

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