I have been meaning to write a review on American Airlines Embraer 175’s (E175 or ERJ-175) First Class for quite a while now. I have flown on dozens of flights in First on these aircraft with American Eagle (the regional carrier for AA) . The majority of these were under an hour, and most of those were the 25 minute flight between SAN & LAX. But for this review I will concentrate on some of the longer flights I have taken like ORD to EWR, and between LAX and IAH, OKC, SEA, MCI and SAT to name a few. American Eagle is comprised of several regional airlines. Most of the flights I flew on were with Compass Airlines, as they operate out of LAX. But each of American’s hubs may have a different regional carrier that flies the E175, like Envoy Air or Republic Airlines. This is as far as I will discuss the regional airlines that make up American Eagle as it may be confusing. So while the crew of each of these subsidiaries can work for different airlines (Compass operates for American & Delta) the equipment and service is by and large the same for American. The only difference may be the layout in First. The E175 will either be fitted with 4 rows in a 1×2 configuration (12 seats) or 2 rows on the single seat side (A) and 3 rows on the two seat side (D&F) for 8 seats. Most flights I flew on had the larger variant. I am guessing that this is the First Class configuration for all Compass planes, but on American’s site and seatguru there is no differentiation.
For the most part the E-175’s (along with the E-170’s and E-190’s) specialize in the less traveled mid-range routes that can not support traditional size jets. However, you can also occasionally find them on popular routes to increase frequency (United uses a few to fly from SAN to SFO & DEN in addition to their larger jet service) and with a range up to 2200 miles, unfortunately, on some longer routes as well. As mentioned, American has two versions of the E175. One with 76 seats (12 seats in First) and the other with 80 seats (I think this is the USAir version with 8 seats in First). The planes with 76 seats also has five rows of Main Cabin Extra (20 seats in a 2×2 configuration) while the 80 seat version has only one row of MCE, which are the four seats at the bulkhead.
The first time I flew on the Embraer 175 (may have been a E170) was with LOT Polish Airlines from Warsaw to Krakow shortly after they took delivery of the first of this family of aircraft. I was immediately impressed that this plane was not the same as many earlier Embraer’s and CRJ’s (Bombardier’s Canadair Regional Jet) I had been on that were cramped with small overheads and you had to bend over to walk down the aisle. While it is still a regional jet and not nearly as spacious as even the smallest Airbus or Boeing jets, it is a much more comfortable aircraft to fly in then either the CRJ-700 or 900. Besides the greater height, the most appealing attribute with the E175 is the size of the windows (they are larger than even some of the larger jets) and the overhead space. On the two side in First Class the overhead is very large, easily fitting a typical 20″-22″ carry-on (roll aboard) headfirst, and thus eliminating having to gate-check your bag (and the long wait standing in the jet-way waiting for it to be brought up). The only downside to such a large overhead over the D & F seats is that on the A side the overhead is very small and can only fit a jacket or small bag, like a purse. In Economy, the overheads are the same size on both sides and can still fit most carry-ons (just may have to put in sideways).
My favorite seat on American’s E-175 is 1A. Besides being both a window and aisle seat, it has both lights and vents over head, plus the leg room is great (same with 1D&F). Rows 2 through 4 have about 37 inches of seat pitch, but the bulkhead easily has over 40 inches. I have a hard time reaching the wall with my feet. The other seats still have ok leg room, just not as much as most of American’s other narrow-body First Class seats (but about the same as the USAir aircraft). As with any other plane, the bulkhead has a much smaller seatback pocket. The seats and headrest are leather with the same grey color scheme as American’s mainline fleet. They’re just not as plush or wide, but still a comfortable 19.9″. They have small drink trays that come out of the armrest and the tray table (folded) is sturdy and large enough to support a full meal tray. The recline is not quite as much as a regular first class seat. The one thing American’s E175’s don’t have is power ports. Not quite sure why not, as other airlines Embraer’s have them and many of these aircraft our brand new.
The service on American Eagle is very similar to what you would find on any First Class domestic flight with American ( http://patstravelreviews.com/american-airlines-737-first-class-review/ ) There is always a blanket on the seat as you arrive onboard and a pre-departure drink of your choice is usually offered (sometimes only a choice of water and orange juice). On longer flights (like between LAX & IAH, OKC, etc) a hot towel is handed out after take-off and meals are served during traditional meal times (same as their non-commuter flights). There are two flight attendants on the E175 and the one assigned to First Class also helps out in Economy. They tend to be younger and a little less jaded than their mainline counterparts. I am fairly sure that none of American Eagles E175’s have ovens. So all meals are of the cold variety. Of the flights I took there was always two choices. For breakfast the choice was Cereal (with fruit, yogurt, and cinnamon rolls) or either lox & bagel or an egg salad sandwich (also included yogurt and fruit). Before both lunch and dinner, a small bowl of cashews & almonds are served with your drink like with their mainline service, but unlike on their larger jets, these nuts are not served warm. The options for lunch and dinner was an Asian Noodle Salad with a cold chicken breast on the side or a sandwich (either Pastrami or Turkey). The salad included a packet of breadsticks and both, a surprisingly nice dessert. Because there is no oven they substitute the usual chocolate chip cookie that is served on these length of flights with a cake or tort. On shorter flights, including the 25 minute SAN – LAX a snack basket is passed out. The American Eagle snack basket is the same as American offers in First Class and does change from time to time. The current selection includes a small packet of Sea Salted Mixed Nuts (almonds & cashews), Sea Salt Popcorn, Biscotti, Salted Caramel Pretzels, Breakfast Squares, and very tasty Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Besides not having power ports AA’s E175’s also do not have in-seat or overhead IFE (In-flight Entertainment). They do however, have gogo Inflight that includes Wi-Fi and American’s Wireless Entertainment portal. A lot has changed with American’s entertainment the past few years so I will not go into what used to be but rather what is today. Now all of American Eagle’s E175’s have Wi-Fi and therefore have own-device entertainment. In addition, outside of AA’s E-190’s (which does have Wi-Fi) all their two-class regional jets have Wi-Fi and wireless entertainment. Further, all their wireless entertainment options are free in both First Class as well as Economy. American’s entertainment portal only has video (no music or games). There is a decent amount of content for both movies and TV. The movies are uncensored and consist of recent releases, favorites/classics, children’s and a few international films. There is also a large selection of television programming. Drama’s, sitcoms, children’s programs, and documentaries. My only complaint is they tend to keep some movies around for several months and there is not enough sitcoms (you can watch an entire 22 minute episode on short flights). To be able to access American’s Wireless Entertainment you have to download the American or gogo app. Do this before you are on the plane. While they have made great improvements with their entertainment options the Wi-Fi is the same as it was a few years ago. Expensive and slow. American’s rates vary greatly. I have seen 30 minutes of internet access for as little as $3.00 and as much as $7.50. Not sure why there is such a difference, but normally it is around $5 for 30 minutes. On some flights I have seen the option for a messaging pass for $2.95 (I think for flight duration). Luckily I have T-Mobile which not only offers free texting and messaging for the flight for members, but also 1 hour free internet. You can also access your American app or aa.com for free as well as a few other companies.
I have never been a fan of regional jets and think they contribute to overcrowding and delays at some airports (a B747 and a CRJ-200 take up the same landing and departure slot). But they are a very important part of the aviation industry and the lifeblood of many midsize or isolated cities around the globe. When flying between two larger cities I used to opt for the flight or airline that flew larger jets (like a B737 or A320). However, with the Embraer 175, I enjoy the 1×2 seating and the convenience they provide. Also, First Class fares tend to be slightly lower on flights operated by American Eagle over American (in other words; SAN to SAT is less thru LAX then DFW) plus it is usually much easier to get upgraded on the E175. As an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member I can not remember not getting upgraded on the E175 the past three years (I can’t say that about their non regional planes).