United Airlines is introducing a number of new regional carrier routes.
The airline has made a point of adding connecting spokes for their hubs, especially to underserved cities where there may be only a single carrier in the market. Delta is the only major airline serving Elmira, for instance (American exited the city earlier in the year).
One that really stuck out to me though is Chicago – Fresno season service because of the sheer length of the flight. That’s not technically the longest flight I know of with a regional jet because Air Canada has one that’s just as long.
Air Canada Jazz flies Houston – Calgary. And 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. Not all regional jets are created equal.
Air Canada’s 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.
United’s E175 that will serve Chicago – Fresno has 12 first class seats with 37 inches of pitch, 16 economy plus seats with 34 inches of pitch, and 48 regular economy with 31 inches of pitch.
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.
- Regular coach is more generous than American’s new 737 MAX aircraft where regular economy will be 30 inches throughout.
- 50 seat CRJs, the bane of frequent flyers’ existence, were once huge advances in passenger comfort — compared to the prop planes that they replaced.
Regional jets 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 usually 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.
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 (the new United) 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.