Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

American Eagle Super-Sizes, Without My Permission!

I seem to be flying on more CRJs (Canadair Regional Jets) on American Eagle where previously all my AE flights were on ERJs (Embraer Regional Jets), and I don't like it. Maybe it's just me who feels this way, but if I have to fly on a regional jet (small commuter jet airplane), then I much prefer ERJs to CRJs.

Why? Several reasons, but the main one is seat comfort, so let's start with that.

ERJs are configured with a 1-2 seat arrangement: one seat on the port side (left side, for the nautically ignorant) and two seats on the starboard (right) side. This means fully two-thirds of ERJ seats are aisle seats, and one-third are single seats with nobody crowding up against you shoulder to shoulder (the RJ norm). I ALWAYS ask for an "A" seat (single seat) on ERJs. I actually prefer them to an aisle seat on a full-size airplane.

Second reason for preferring ERJs over CRJs is also about seat comfort, but in a different way. CRJs were NOT designed to be commuter jets; they were planned as corporate barges. The designers never thought they'd be stuffing four seats across into the tiny CRJ fusilage, but the 2-2 configuration is the norm. Those four seats are VERY narrow to accommodate room for the equally narrow aisle, and there is simply no way for two adults to sit next to each other on a CRJ without being in pretty much constant physical contact at the arms and shoulders. I hate that lack of privacy and invasion of personal space, made worse on the 1,000-1,500 mile segments these planes are often flying now.

Third reason for my dislike of the CRJ is that the windows were designed into the tube too low. Ever notice on those planes how you have to bend over to look out the windows? The windows are not at eye level because of the Bombardier engineering geniuses who laid them out. The result is that you can't see out the windows easily, that is, unless you are a chimpanzee or an eight year old.

Fourth reason for preferring ERJs is that they are smaller and board and "deplane" (not a real word) faster than CRJs. Airlines like to point to commuter jets as being quick to turn, and I have heard them tout this as a customer service point in their favor. However, that's not true with the ever-larger CRJs (70 seats, 100 seats...where does it end?). Even the 50-seaters take more time to get under way and to unload at destination than ERJs. That's another time killer.

Fifth reason is similar to the fourth: The larger size of the CRJs often means poor or no service once in the air, simply because the flight attendant cannot reach every passenger in time. Sure, there isn't much service any more, but I look forward to my orange juice, water, or diet soda to keep me hydrated. I sometimes don't get even that on CRJs.

Why AE has suddenly in the past year starting flying the confounded CRJs, I don't know, but it's one more nail in their coffin for me. Comair (Delta Connection) eventually wore me down completely after I had accumulated 5.2 million Delta miles. I stopped most of my flying on Delta as a result. In addition to Comair's utter lack of customer service, it was the tyranny of the Comair CRJ fleet and that aircraft's inherent discomfort that finally drove me away.

When we are forced to endure more and more commuter flights on RJs, and longer and longer stage lengths, and with more and longer delays start to finish, the little things begin to count more than ever. For my money, the ERJ is the comfort leader, and I'll take an ERJ over a CRJ every time.

I never realized until American Eagle started substituting CRJs for their former 100% ERJ fleet that I was putting up with the other crap from AE because at LEAST they flew ERJs! Now some dumb-ass at Eagle has decided to super-size their aircraft, and there will be a consequence for them and for me: more flying now on Continental's commuter flights, which remain mostly ERJs.

Oh yes, and it just reinforces my commitment to quit the road warrior lifestyle by this time in 2008.


Blogger Finprof said...

Eagle was never really all-ERJ. They have had (and fortunately are limited to by the APA contract) 25 CRJ 700's. Formerly confined mostly to western and intra-Texas routes, these clunkers have spread out to numerous places in the East. They are awful, and completely unridable on anything over a 400 mile hop. At least "more and more" of them isn't a problem...

6/15/2007 11:55 AM  

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