Within the borders of the U.S., the New York/Los Angeles route is widely viewed as the jewel in the crown of commercial aviation.
The country’s two largest media markets. Centers of finance and entertainment. Plenty of upscale customers willing and able to pay for front-of-the-plane accommodations. It’s a recipe for profitable air service. Which means it’s also a hotbed of competition.
And indeed, every airline that flies cross-country routes does so with its plushest seats, fanciest meals, and most robust menus of inflight entertainment.
And that raises the question: Which airline’s transcon service is the best?
There are many ways to assess the quality of an airline’s service. But George Hobica, founder of sister site Airfarewatchdog, decided to do it the old-fashioned way, by the seat of his pants. He flew transcon in first or business class on all five of the competing carriers.
His conclusion, as reported in USA Today: American’s service is the best of the best.
The new Airbus A321s are a joy to fly in, with comfortable lie-flat seat surfaces, in-flight power, and a great in-flight entertainment system with dozens of movies you’ll actually want to watch. No surprise, perhaps, American has the largest market share on the JFK-LAX route.
In second place was JetBlue, on the strength of its new Mint service, which Hobica says compares favorably with other airline’s first class but can be purchased for as little as $599 each way.
United was mid-pack overall, although its seats were the most comfortable.
Hobica wasn’t a fan of Virgin America’s first-class product: “The seats don’t lie flat and the hard leather surfaces, while attractive, are uncomfortable.” But the $399 standby upgrades were a plus.
In last place was Delta, which “is trying hard” but offers spotty lie-flat seating and restricts mileage upgrades to more expensive coach fares.
Reader Reality Check
What’s your fave airline for transcon flights?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.