Domestic travel has really changed for the road warrior over the past ten years. Where even lower tier elite members could count on the occasional upgrade. This is no longer the reality. Airlines have gotten much better at selling those domestic first class seats. Even top-tier elites miss out on complimentary upgrades much more frequently now. In the world of business travel, not much has improved when it comes to air travel.
United Airlines has an interesting fleet entry that should be specifically appealing to business travelers. It’s not a new plane, per se. Rather, United has reimagined an existing plane. Meet the CRJ-550.
United Airlines CRJ-550
United had announced the CRJ-550 earlier this year with a number of details and conceptual drawings. With the plane preparing to make its first flight shortly, I had the chance to hop onboard a CRJ-550 to see the changes brought to life.
The plane has a configuration of 50 passengers in the space where there used to be 70. The extra space was very noticeable throughout the aircraft.
As soon as you enter the CRJ-550 you’ll notice a self-service snack and drink area for first class passengers. As a business traveler who’s looking for efficiency, I’m perfectly capable of getting up to grab myself a drink. I’ll be interested to see how many passengers use this feature versus asking a flight attendant for a drink. With just 50 passengers on the CRJ-550, there’s only one flight attendant to serve the entire cabin.
First Class Cabin
The first class cabin grows a bit over other regional jets. The cabin will have 10 total seats. A fourth row will contain a single seat. The legroom in the first class cabin is pretty darn awesome. It’s better than similar regional aircraft and arguably better than some narrow body aircraft across the fleet.
The coach cabin is divided up into 20 Economy Plus seats and 20 standard economy seats. While the legroom no great shakes in the back of the plan, the Economy Plus portion is downright spacious for a regional jet. Extra legroom seating isn’t commonly found on regional jets outside of an exit row. On the CRJ-550, the exit row joins the first row of Economy Plus with phenomenal legroom, where the other rows are still very comfortable.
Another great element of the CRJ-550 is storage bins located in the cabin. While the overhead bin space is constrained by the size of the fuselage, the closets allow for expanded storage of full-size carry-on bags. This means business travelers will be able to bring their bags onboard instead of needing to gate check those bags. As a frequent business traveler, this is the second most significant pain point on a regional jet behind the lack of Wi-Fi on some planes. Getting me on my way quickly is the primary goal. Keeping me in contact with my bag saves valuable minutes on every flight.
The Final Two Pennies
The CRJ-550 is a clear winner for business travelers. This new configuration will find a home initially at Chicago-O’Hare in a big way. Washington-Dulles will also see some of these planes pretty quickly.
These planes will be popular on routes that business travelers frequent, those now covered by cramped regional jets like the Embraer 145 and CRJ-200. They’re not making the cabin bigger, but they’re sure making it more comfortable.
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