A reader sent me a question the other day, which I think many will find interesting since I bet others are wondering the same thing. I know I was.
Question: “With so much COVID info changing on a daily basis, I was wondering if you recommend any particular airlines over others in terms of reliability, change/cancellation policies, etc.? I just paid for a 1st class ticket on Delta from LGA but am having second thoughts. If you have any info/thoughts, I’d appreciate it. I have not been on a plane yet since COVID!” S.K.
Answer: It’s a great question and when the pandemic began, I recommended travelers fly Delta Air Lines since they were blocking the middle seat and doing an overall great job (followed by Alaska Airlines and Southwest).
Delta was the last to hold out but the golden age of half-empty flights ended in May. You can’t blame them from an economic standpoint. Unfortunately, Delta had such a terrible time with operations, especially by not hiring enough phone reservation agents to keep up with demand, they decided to allow full changes to Basic Economy tickets for travel through December 31, 2021. As Delta writes on their website: “While Basic Economy tickets are normally non-changeable, you can adjust your eligible travel without paying a change fee.”
Besides that, all the major airlines (not low-fare carriers like Spirit) are basically the same when it comes to changes as long as you don’t purchase a basic economy ticket. The lone exception is Southwest, which never charged a change fee.
But flying first class is not an equal proposition across all airlines and even more so across all routes. If I was flying from Miami to New York City as Suzy is planning, I would definitely choose American Airlines (AA). That’s because American operates widebody 777 planes. They also operate 737 MAX or A321s, which I would stay away from. not because of safety but because their 777s are configured 1x2x1 and have lie flat seats so you will only have 2-3 people within a six-foot radius.
What’s crazy is that AA is charging double for their inferior 737 product for the random date I pulled up in January (see screenshot below).
The only downside is that you will have to fly to JFK and not LGA, which is twice the distance to Manhattan.
I was going to suggest JetBlue’s Mint (their version of first class) but they only fly out of FLL and surprisingly, they don’t offer Mint to the NY area according to their route map.
In terms of on-time performance, you can look up a flight’s history on flightstats.com. I just looked it up for AA 688, which is the first flight in the screenshot above; you can see the data below.