Review of United First Class on the Embraer 175

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We recently flew United Express from Houston to Wichita, Kansas, a route that we have previously flown many, many times before due to having family in Kansas. Not surprisingly, our flights on this route have always been on a regional jet. I didn’t think much of our recent reservation in terms of aircraft type or seat assignments until the day before departure when I got an email that we our elite upgrades had cleared.

Our what?

I knew we were already in E+ seats on the flight, and I wasn’t aware of any first class on the ERJs we had flown on this route before, so I was momentarily totally confused. It was only when I logged on and looked closer at our new seats on the United app that I realized we were on an Embraer 175 that has 12 first class seats in a 1 – 2 four row configuration. This aircraft type joined the United Express fleet in 2014, so it is a pretty new addition to the fleet.

I then went from laughing at the notion that we had been upgraded to first class on a regional United jet to looking forward to sitting in what actually looked to be a better seat. According to United’s website the first class seats on the E175 are 24 inches wide instead of the 18 in economy, have a pitch of 37” instead of the 34” in E+ and the 31” in regular economy, and a recline of 5” instead of the 3” in E+ and the 1” in regular economy.

It is a less than two hour flight, so none of this really matters all that much, but since I am traveling with a baby on my lap I certainly wouldn’t turn down some extra space!

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Family of four in Embrarer 175 First Class

We boarded on-time and unlike with previous regional jet experiences on United, the gate agent and flight attendants didn’t seem to be stopping every bag larger than a purse that headed down the jet bridge to tag it as gate checked due to size limitations on the aircraft, but instead they were encouraging people that their carry-ons should fit just fine…and judging by not seeing folks doing the walk of shame back to the front with their bags until the end when the bins were full, they were right.

My carry-on bag fits on every regional jet I’ve ever flown (often to the dismay of many agents), but it fit with total ease on this regional jet.

First Class seat on United Express ERJ-175

First Class seat on United Express Embrarer 175

Sure these aren’t your fancy lie-flat first class seats, or really anything even close, but they looked down right awesome for a 542 mile journey. 

We got settled in and the flight attendants offered a true pre-departure beverage service. This included not just asking if we wanted a cup of water (which would have been fine), but they actually served real drinks to everyone in first who desired one.

Once airborne, they came back around and offered an initial and then second in-flight beverage, served in an actual glass. There was no meal service on this short flight, but they did offer a snack basket with a variety of packaged snacks to those in first class. 

The four rows of first class had power outlets in the event you needed them, and the flight was equipped with working Wi-Fi including free streaming movies for those with the United app.

The smooth flight landed 30 minutes early and honestly couldn’t have been better. I didn’t go into the flight hoping for any more than just a way to get from Point A to Point Grandma’s as quickly as possible, but the ride on a regional jet (with a lap baby!) was actually comfortable.

A look at the schedule shows that the E175 is not a common fixture on this route, and indeed our flight back home is on the more common 50 seater E145 that does not have a first class cabin, but I can guarantee I’ll be on the look-out for the 175 version as long as I have a shot at an upgrade. I don’t know that first class on a regional jet is worth paying much of a premium for in most cases, but if you can score the upgrade then you are in for a pretty nice short ride.

Our 542 mile United flight had a relatively large first class seat, good service, good beverage service both on the ground and in the air, a snack basket, streaming movies, working WiFi and power outlets…and it was 30 minutes early. I don’t see how you could possibly ask for anything better.

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  1. I was curious about this airplane! I will be flying it in late April CLE – IAH . And similar to your route, the E175 is not a normal fixture on this route, either. I did notice from pulling up my flight on ITA software, that this flight is operated by MESA airlines (D/B/A United Express). The other flights that same day are all coded as ERJ-135/145 and are operated by Express Jet (D/B/A United Express) and Trans States Airlines (D/B/A United Express). Anyway just thought I’d mention it…I will be sitting in those 24-inchers! Can’t wait. I will be looking for the E175 and choosing it whenever possible. I hope United gets more of them. Go MESA!

    PS – Just pulled this off the MESA air website with regard to United – “The company recently announced an agreement for 18 additional E175s scheduled for delivery in 2016.” All I can say is that it’s about time, United!

    • And here’s more from the Mesa website:

      “Say hello to our newest aircraft delivery! Mesa Airlines’ 34th Embraer 175 (and the fourth of 18 scheduled to join our United Express fleet this year) arrived in Houston from the Embraer factory in Brazil this week! We are growing and hiring…It’s a great time to join Mesa Airlines!”

  2. I live in COS and United only flies RJ’s out of here. Because COS is a maintenance base for Skywest, they fly the Em175 out of here quite often. It is such a huge difference from say a CRJ200! And during meal times on longer flights, they serve real meals. Plus with 12 seats in first, my upgrade percentage is about 99.9%. So, if at all possible, I pick the Em175 over any other RJ.

  3. My first E175 flight was last September, Vancouver to Los Angeles on American Eagle. I also got upgraded. Nice plane and good service. The E175 is now my favorite regional jet, and is actually more comfortable than a 737 or A320 since there are no middle seats.

  4. The E170/175 are one reason I liked flying Delta, as they’ve had them for well over 3 years. Their fuselage shape means less cramped seating, close to normal sized bins and first class. In terms of passenger loads they are closers in size to the 700 or 900 series which also have first class.
    A question I have is how did the 3 of you score upgrades? I thought it was just the elite member and one passenger.

    • Great question that I don’t know the answer to. They were both silver until a week ago. Glitch? Luck? I honestly don’t know.

  5. Just did this exact flight in reverse on Sunday and I also got the complimentary upgrade. A very nice UA experience.

  6. The power jacks have a small button the is spring-based. It prevents standard-issue Apple block chargers from remaining seated and it is annoying. Just an FYI.

    • Yes this is very true and very annoying. If you plug it in then pull the cord over the arm rest very tightly and pin it in place with the tray, then it stays in. Design flaw for sure. Maybe they don’t use apple products in Brazil

  7. Nice! About to board this aircraft for the first time here in about 30min. Seat 2A. Thanks for sharing the details. Looking forward to it. Hope u don’t mind me borrowing your “Point A to Point Granma’s” line! Funny!

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