This little plane has always intrigued me. I saw an Embraer E-Jet for the first time in the mid-2000s during a layover in Nashville. US Airways was quickly becoming an all-Airbus fleet (cost savings over Boeing), the A318 had just launched, and I saw rumors years before of an A317.
“Oh, that must be an A317.”
I would soon learn that Embraer, known for small regional jets, had moved into bigger classes. I began seeing these little E-Jets daily during Frontier Airlines’ stint in Baton Rouge, but I was never curious enough to fly one until moving near Bush Intercontinental, where the United Express E175 dominates domestic flights.
About this aircraft, the E-Jet was launched in 2002, entering service with LOT Polish Airlines two years later. Its E170, E175, E190 and E195 variants have since performed routes previously flown by Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s around the world due to their immense fuel efficiency, as well as passenger comfort. Speaking for the E175, you can’t go to an airport in America today without seeing one. The jetliner is a meager 104 feet long, with a wingspan of 85 feet and two engines slightly larger than a twin-sized mattress. They typically seat 76 passengers in the United States—12 recliner seats in first class and 64 standard seats in economy on United Express—with a flight range of 2,500 miles and a cruising speed of nearly 500 miles per hour.
With those stats in mind, what was so special to me about the E175? Well, the E175 is today what the original 737s were in the 1970s: small, short to medium-haul airliners that brought a certain level of efficiency to air travel. Not only do they look sexy, but I’ve seen nothing but rave reviews about their comfort and performance, and how people deliberately seek to fly on these planes, despite their misuse.
My ride to Washington was ship N89304, flight 6092 in Economy. A familiar face, I actually filmed this bird taking off in 2020 during my first “Birdwatching” video. Sitting at the gate with my Starbucks in hand, I got to see just how petite this aircraft really is. So it’s amazing that these legacy carriers are outsourcing such compact aircraft on such lengthy flights! With so little presumed space, traveling on these things must be hell!
I’m a fanatic for the Boeing 737-700, but the Embraer E175 has to be the most comfortable narrow-body I’ve ever flown on. Here’s why:
The E-Jet family of aircraft has no middle seats; more specifically, they seat four abreast—two on each side, or 2×2—in Economy, and 2×1 in first class. Not only that, but at least on United Express (Mesa Airlines), the jet offers seats 18 inches wide in economy, with an ample 31 inches of legroom—more than what’s being offered by most mainline narrow-bodies in the United States. Accustomed to 3×3 aircraft, the assumably cramped 6.5 x 9-foot cabin was offset by this rather optimized seating arrangement.
I’m not here to write about my experience on United Airlines/United Express, which was good, but about this particular airliner.
Entering the cabin, I was stunned by the yellowish lighting. It did look a bit dated, considering ship 893 was only built in 2014, and the seats weren’t anything fancy upon first glance. But then I sat down, and I instantly knew that I would be in good hands for this three-hour flight. It looked as if every row had a window, and given my knowledge of the traffic flow at Intercontinental (IAH), I made the right seat selection, which gave me a nice over-wing view for the “Birdwatching” footage. The cabin noise is also what you’d expect from a modern airliner, if not on the quieter side.
This is probably an abrupt ending, but it’s really just that simple: as a passenger, I would love to see airlines move away from middle seats. That’s why so many people are hoping for a 2x2x2 “mini wide-body” layout for Boeing’s eventual 797, rather than the typical 3×3. Even for a narrow-body, I’d much rather traverse an elongated fuselage if it meant eliminating middle seats and giving that extra inch of width and legroom. The Embraer E175 can seat up to 88 passengers, but is capped at 76 due to scope clauses that separate regional airlines from mainline carriers. Its lighter weight is also why its successor, the E175-E2, “can’t” be sold in the United States. But as great as these planes are, both in performance and comfort, I would just love for the airlines to better incorporate these E-Jets into their fleets, or for more manufacturers to consider four-abreast narrow-bodies.
My return flight was on ship N80348, built in 2016.
That weekend in D.C. was a much-needed getaway 32 years in the making, but also a canary in the coal mine; I would fall into a two-day-long depression the moment I stepped foot back in Houston (personal issues). But then I looked up the following Tuesday while walking to class, and there was ship 893 flying over to boost my spirits.
So there you have it. I will being returning to my home airline of Southwest for my next vacation. But should I ever need to choose another carrier, I’ll be sure to seek out an E-Jet over any other aircraft. After all, nothing’s keeping Southwest from taking them on…