Everything is Going Regional

By | March 2, 2010

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the issues of regional jets. Recently, we pointed out how the Colgan Crash last year had brought to light several issues with the system of regional carriers.

The Regional Airline system is based on the idea that a major carrier, let’s say Continental, can subcontract out its work to a regional carrier, like Colgan Air. The plane is painted in Continental colors, in little tiny letters by the door it says, “operated by Colgan Air.” It used to be, without such airlines and their smaller planes, airlines would never serve certain routes, especially into smaller cities.

American Eagle CRJ-700

Image by caribb via Flickr

But now, we are seeing these regional flights between large cities pairs. Airlines have decided to put these flights in larger markets. Some of this is frequency. With the reduction in capacity, instead of two 150 seat flights, four 70 seat flights. That could be called right-sizing. But more smaller planes mean more congestion. It is a slippery slope.

To that end, American Airlines has decided to remodel its CRJ-700 regional jets, introducing a First Class product. American Eagle‘s 22 new CRJ-700s will include new first class seats with include four-way adjustable headrests, ergonomically-contoured back and seat cushions, and a unique articulated seat bottom, which will allow customers to recline with less impact on the legroom of passengers seated behind them. They are also installed a slimmer economy seat which will, according to them, add an inch of legroom.

Now, if there are more regional jets flying, making an effort to make them more comfortable is a positive. The 40 and 50 seater regional jets are rather uncomfortable to fly on. The 70-100 seater jets have a bit more comfort onboard, but it still isn’t a mainline jet. As Mark Ashley of Upgrade: Travel Better, put it:

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s great that the CRJ product is being improved, and this sounds like a meaningful improvement. On the other hand, CRJs are inferior to mainline: more likely to be canceled, more prone to turbulence, smaller overhead bins, no ovens (for the first class peeps)… the list goes on. At least there will be hot nuts!

So, that sums it up nicely. We hope airlines will consider more mainline service again but if they have to run regional jets, let them at least be the most comfortable experience they can offer.