November 15, 2006

The Trip East: Delta over United

Thanks to a string of corporate events year after year, I've racked up hundreds of thousands of miles on United Airlines, boosted by consistent spending on my United Visa. United just happens to be default for me when I consider flying, and it will take a magnificent price difference to get me to switch. As we know, old habits die hard.

So when I found a round-trip flight from San Jose to Tampa, Florida would cost me over $1,000 on United, and just over $300 to take Delta, we switched, despite the fact I would need to catch 7 a.m. flights on both ends of the trip. So yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed by 4:00 a.m. and, eyes bleary, drove through the darkness to make my way to an unfamiliar terminal. Already grumpy, thanks to the damage to my sleep, our near-draconian security measures at the checkpoint forced me to give up the basics, including my shampoo, shaving cream and toothpaste. Brilliant. As if I were going to foam up my hands or threaten to make a fellow passenger minty fresh...

But I made it on the plane. Originally planning to sleep or read, I found that the jet was equipped with in-seat TV monitors, where I could watch our progress across the nation, or choose from a small selection of films for entertainment. For $5, I watched "Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby," slipping the flight attendant a Lincoln to gain access to 2 hours of Will Ferrell. While the show wasn't the best I'd ever seen, it was fun, and entertaining, from the California/Nevada border all the way through Arkansas. Best of all, I didn't need to strain my neck around other passengers to see it on a far-away monitor, and simply used my iPod earbuds to get the sound, rather than reaching into my seat pocket to get industrial headphones and wondering who had borrowed them before me.

The seats on the Delta flight were comfortable, and luckily, we didn't have anybody sitting in the middle seat. Just me, an empty chair, and another passenger, by the window. After so many cattle calls on United, this was much preferred, though I could give credit for that to the early flight time as much as the airline.

Was it enough to get me to switch over from United, and become a Delta fan? Not entirely. But if I see that Delta saves me any cash over United for future flights, I'll be sure to check out the flight amenities and not dismiss it right away.

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