Recently, I got a short email that roused some complaints. “We have to go to Baton Rouge” was all it said, followed by three or four frown-face emojis. Fine by me because I like going just about anywhere, especially if it’s in Louisiana! However, some among us complain about every low-traffic or short hop flight because you can bet we will be on a regional jet. You know, American Eagle. A Canadiar CRJ-700 or Embraer ERJ-145. Some people just hate ‘em.
Personally, I like them. Okay, sometimes the seats are a bit old and saggy, but I like the leather version because you can swab them down with a Clorox wipe. I also like that there’s no middle seat on the whole plane! Give me a 1-2 configuration any day, especially if I can get in on the A side. Yes, they’re a tight squeeze for big guys, but anything beats a middle seat no matter how big you are!
Even though I don’t mind the smaller jets, I’m not opposed to giving them an upgrade, which “the new American” is doing as part of a $2-billion investment announced on the one-year anniversary of the American Airlines/US Airways merger. Chief marketing officer Andrew Nocella said the airline is “investing in a more competitive and consistent customer experience across our regional, domestic and international network,” adding that they are “giving customers what they want – comfort, connectivity and a world-class travel experience.”
According to American’s press releases, the carrier will be adding Gogo inflight wireless Internet service in all two-class regional jets; nearly 250 aircraft by 2016. With that installation comes bragging rights as the largest fleet of connected regional jets. The bigger jets will be getting new Internet options, too, when the airline adds satellite-based Internet access to the international fleet.
What’s really exciting is that new plane smell! The investment includes orders for more than 500 jets, about two planes per week through 2016, which would make American’s the youngest fleet of any U.S.-based network carrier. Of those, 90 will be large regional jets: the Embraer 175 and Bombardier CRJ900 NextGen. These are modern, 76-seat planes with First Class, Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra seating, larger lavs and overhead bins, and leather seats with adjustable headrests.
The airline is updating more than just its regional fleet, with updated designs on the way for Admirals Club lounges worldwide, more inflight entertainment options, fully lie-flat seats, and an upgraded assortment of complimentary cocktails and healthy foods. For the power-hungry traveler, there’s even better news aboard the big jets: New Boeing 737s, nearly all new Airbus A321s, and retrofitted A319s will have power ports in every row, while new wide-body jets, such as the Boeing 777-300ER and 787, will have power at every seat. Finally…we can watch Downton Abbey nonstop across the pond. Life is good!
Whether you love or hate the “little planes,” the improvements are good news for everyone who flies on the 2600 daily flights operated by American Eagle and US Airways Express. Together, they fly to 240 destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. (Eventually, the entire regional fleet will be under the American Eagle brand and livery.)
Photos courtesy of American Airlines.