Via Joe Brancatelli, Alaska Airlines will be contracting with Skywest to fly Embraer E175 regional jets between Seattle and both Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.
Those are some long flights on a regional jet!
Certainly Seattle – Milwaukee is one of the longest flights operated by a regional, but certainly not the longest in North America. For instance Air Canada Jazz flies Houston – Calgary.
To be sure, I’d take longer flights on an Air Canada Jazz CRJ705 (aka “CRA”) or an Embraer E175 over 1400 mile-ish flights on an ERJ145.
The CRJ705 offers 10 first class seats with 37 inches of pitch (distance from seat back to seat back) and 65 economy seats with 34 inches of pitch — the equivalent of United’s economy plus and American’s main cabin extra throughout the cabin.
The Skywest E175s flying for Alaska Airlines will feature 12 first class seats and 64 economy seats, the same capacity as Skywest operates the aircraft for United.
These aren’t going to be super-comfortable, but they won’t be horrible. Or at least notions of horribleness are incredibly subjective and shifting over time. 50 seat CRJs, the bane of frequent flyers’ existence, were once huge advances in passenger comfort — compared to the prop planes that they replaced.
Those planes have high per-seat costs compared to larger jets, but became popular when airlines managed to include the flexibility to contract out more flying to regional affiliates in their pilot contracts.
- Regional jets mean regional airlines, which have lower labor costs.
- Smaller planes, while expensive per-seat, are cheaper to operate in total than a large jet. So markets that cannot fill a large plane can be served profitably with a smaller jet.
And while a large aircraft is going to be preferred by passengers over a small one, a regional jet non-stop will often be preferred over large jet connections.
In other words, we don’t get to fly what we want to fly, we have to make comparisons against real world options that can be sustainable for an airline to offer. Otherwise we’d be choosing to fly Singapore Suites class on Denver and Phoenix – East Coast redeyes. Of course people in general won’t pay for that.
Nonetheless, given the choice I’ll avoid regional jets without first class and extra legroom, and without inflight internet. And yet I take them on short routes when that’s what is offered, with the most convenient flight times.
While it can make sense on short non-stop flights without competition, Continental years ago became the first airline offering one-stop cross country flights on a regional jet … Richmond to Palm Springs via Houston. That was a pretty thin route, there weren’t a lot of passengers connecting between those cities. But given that particular set of cities I’d have chosen to fly someone else.
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