Trip Report: First Ride on the Embraer 190

I know I’m a little late with this one. When I rode the A380, very few others had seen the inside. Embraer 190 FuselageThe Embraer 190, however, has been in service for awhile now and it, along with its slightly smaller and larger siblings (Embraer 170/175/195), has seen plenty of customers around the US. That being said, it’s still my first time riding it, so I thought I’d comment for those who haven’t had the chance yet.

For JetBlue, the Embraer 190 was an opportunity to serve smaller markets that could only fill 100 seats instead of the 150 on the A320. Other airlines have used the aircraft in this family as a 70 seat regional jet (United, US Airways) and a mainline 100 seat aircraft (eg DC-9) replacement. (Yes, that’s Northwest.) It was supposed to give the feeling and comfort of a big aircraft cabin but still only hold 70 to 110 people. It’s sort of a hybrid between a regional jet and a traditional narrowbody. Did it live up to its billing?

I’d say it did, although the slightly small overhead bin means that larger regular-sized carry-ons need to be gate checked. If that’s the biggest problem I have, you know it’s not bad at all, even if the inconsistency is a bit nagging. Read below for the full trip report which included an A320 on the way up and the Embraer 190 back down.


August 16, 2008
JetBlue #220 Lv Long Beach (LGB) 700a Arr San Jose (SJC) 815a
LGB: Gate 2A, Runway 30, Dept OT
SJC: Gate C4, Runway 30L, Arr 6m Early
Aircraft: N624JB, Airbus A320-232, “Blue-T-Ful”, ~99% Full
Seat: 7A
Flight Time: 54m

I’ll keep this part brief because there wasn’t much to say. The security line in Long Beach took a whopping 15 minutes. I was surprised until I realized that the bottleneck was the incredibly slow ID checker and the lines to get through the security checkpoints themselves were non-existent. How frustrating.

But it didn’t matter. We made it with plenty of time and leisurely boarded our early morning trip up north for a friend’s wedding. I passed the short flight time by watching Olympic basketball, and before I knew it we were on the ground. I haven’t been to San Jose in a long time, but they are really doing a number on this airport. Terminal B is finally being built, and the old Terminal C, where JetBlue flies, is on its last legs. I’ll still take it over the overcrowded and inadequately-sized Terminal A any day.

After a great wedding, we had hoped to fly back around midday. Unfortunately, JetBlue’s schedule leaves a huge hole in the middle of the day, so we had to wait until an afternoon flight. Fortunately, we had no trouble filling our time by wandering around my old Stanford stomping grounds. I still miss that campus. (And if you’re ever up there, make sure you stop in for a sandwich at JJ&F.)


August 17, 2008
JetBlue #225 Lv San Jose (SJC) 340p Arr Long Beach (LGB) 454p
SJC: Gate C4, Runway 30R, Dept 23m Late
LGB: Gate 4, Runway 30, Arr 25m Late
Aircraft: N193JB, Embraer 190-100 IGW, “Peek-A-Blue”, ~99% Full
Seat: 3A
Flight Time: 59m

We made it back to San Jose with plenty of time, so we grabbed a seat and relaxed. The screen said that our flight was boarding, but the inbound hadn’t even arrived yet. The agents did come on the PA and say that we would be only 10 to 15 minutes late. The plane finally arrived just before our departure time and boarding began.

The agent made an announcement that this was one of JetBlue’s “express” aircraft. (I don’t think they call it that, and if anyone over there is reading this, they might not be too happy.) But the point was that the overhead bins were smaller and wouldn’t fit the bags that you can fit on a regular-sized aircraft. JetBlue Speed Taped EngineI just had a backpack and a garment bag, but my fiancee had a roller that she thought she’d try to fit.

Upon boarding, my fiancee turned to me and pointed out what looked like duct tape holding the engine onto the wing. I know it’s speed tape, and I’m sure that it’s not actually holding it on the wing, but it still caused some concern among other passengers. I tried to get a picture of it inflight, but it didn’t really come out very well (at right).

Once onboard, the roller bag did fit, but it only fit sideways and her bag was relatively thin so it barely made it. Unfortunately for my garment bag, the bins were short enough to prevent me from fitting the bag on top of other bags. Embraer 190 CabinThat wasn’t good.

But other than that, the product was similar to what you’d find on any other JetBlue airplane. It was nice only having 2×2 seating so there was no middle seat, but it definitely gives a more claustrophobic feel to the cabin. It was at least a taller cabin than a regional jet, and the cabin height was plenty for most people.

The only other thing that stood out for me was the window size and spacing. Embraer 190 WindowThe windows were nice and big, but they were relatively far apart. It left for plenty of wall space and imperfectly placed windows, as you can see at right.

I had plenty of time to pay attention to these things since the television system, though working on the ground, shut off before departure and didn’t start up again until we were at cruise altitude. They were clearly having trouble with the system on that flight, but it did finally stabilize. We came down to the west of LA and had a spectacular view all the way down. Then we flipped around over Catalina and came in for a nice landing to the northwest.

26 Responses to Trip Report: First Ride on the Embraer 190

  1. Wes says:

    Thanks for the report Brett, I always enjoy reading them.

  2. Justin says:

    In their initial service months, the 190s caused JetBlue numerous headaches over software issues and led to some costs for Embraer on the repairs. I flew one of these from New York to Houston this spring, a trip that tops four hours, and was shocked to find I didn’t feel cramped or bothered by the cabin.

  3. Zach says:

    I like the EMB190. It’s a nice alternative to the Canadair.

  4. DRG says:

    Just got off an Air Canada Embraer 190 two days ago. I was able to get my fairly large roller in the bin, but it was tight.

    My only complaint with the Embraer 190 is this: If you are flying it in a 2-class operation (like AC operates), the economy class passenger-to-bathroom ratio is very high compared to most other aircraft models. On flights of a couple of hours, the line-ups to the one bathroom in the back get pretty long.

  5. Tony says:

    I LOVE this plane, love, love love it! I never thought the day would come there would be a regional jet I actually looked forward to flying on, well the Embraer 170 and 190 changed that.

    I’ve been on both UA Express and B6 Embraers, and found both to be comfortable, quiet and asthetically appealing.

    Now just don’t let me start on the CRJ’s (ugh!)

  6. David says:

    I’ve flown a 175 in first on Northwest, and thought it was great. If you’re travelling alone, the 1-2 configuration in first is nice.

  7. BAP says:

    I love the 170/190′s and will take one over a 737 any day.

    In reference to the window spacing, USAirways Express 195′s seem to have most of the seat backs line up in the middle of the windows – talk about annoying!

    Great report!

  8. Roger says:

    The Express service, if I’m not mistaken, generally refers to the type of on board amenities offered on shorter flights.

    For example, a morning Express service will only offer water, coffee and perhaps orange juice instead of full beverage service.

  9. CF says:

    Yes, good point Roger. They did mention the “Express beverage service” when we were on the plane itself, but this was on the ground and was referring to the overhead bin space.

  10. Bert says:

    I recently flew a 190 from YUL to YHZ, about 1h30 and it was a nice, very nice change from the Dash (AC Jazz), CRJ (AC Jazz), ERJ (CC), 320 (AC) I am used to.

    Maybe it was my first experience that is somewhat seen through rose-coloured glasses, but it was nice while it lasted. The windows are huge, spacing was not an issue for me . The thing is quiet, I had economy front bulk-head seats (row 12 IIRC).

    The one thing I think I noticed, is that the takeoff run is LLLOOONNNNGGGGG. Perhaps the thing is a bit underpowered. I have seen overstuffed Dash-es and 320s rotate faster than the 25% full ERJ-190. Perhaps a sign of the fuel-economy concious times?

  11. john says:

    I really enjoy having the 2-2 configuration on a plane that’s otherwise full size.

    Bert– the plane goes 500mph. It’s not underpowered. If a long takeoff run saves gas without reducing cruising speed then by all means take your damn time.

  12. Ryan says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed your JetBlue E-190 experience. The aircraft has flown coast to coast in the past on trial flights with just a few people on board, so it has the legs to go far. It’s a pretty good ride, but I’ve heard in turbulence the back can sway quite a bit since the plane is pretty long and skinny.

    Cheers!

    Ryan

  13. UptownEastside says:

    Great report. I’ve been reading your posts for a couple weeks now and enjoy your perspective on airlines, airports and other airline industry related topics.
    I found your blog by searching for JetBlue Embraer 190 as I got an automated call from JetBlue last week informing me that my flight times had changed for an upcoming flight from JFK-SDQ(Santo Domingo). I called them just to confirm everything was fine and that I was still booked in my $30 extra per person, extra legroom seats and they said that I was not in the seats that I had orginally booked (2 B,C both ways) but that I was in 12 C,D, which are the emergency aisle(yes, i was still charged the extra fee for those seats, which is kind of quirky but I don’t really mind as I’m 6’4” and always need the extra legroom and willing to pay for it)
    The only knock on these 190 seats are that I hear the window spacing is a bit odd but now, don’t we all hate leaning on those extra hot or freezing cold windows at certain flight times. Thanks for the info about the 190 and I look forward to more of your posts.

  14. UptownEastside says:

    One more thing: I look forward to updating anyone on the new JetBlue terminal that is opening on Oct. 1st at JFK-Terminal 5. Looks to be an amazing terminal for the creative airline.

  15. CF says:

    UptownEastside – On the 190, the emergency exit row is the only one with the extra legroom, so there’s nothing to change now. It’s just as good as the front rows on the A320, legroom-wise. It’s true, the windows are pretty odd with their spacing, but it’s still a very nice plane.

  16. UptownEastside says:

    Thanks for the response. Is SDQ considered long haul for JB?, I paid $30 extra each way each person for the legroom, I had trueblue points for one free ticket and a $350 credit for the other but ended up still spending an extra $120 on legroom upgrades. It seems a bit odd to me but I’m pretty much open to paying anything for extra legroom. Also, I read your post about how you had to sign up for trublue to use the credit, very interesting, I didn’t realize that.
    Its not the best rewards system, but it works. If my math is correct, it takes about spending $10000 on your JB Amex to get a free flight.

  17. CF says:

    Uptown – I don’t know, but it looks like it’s medium haul to me at about 1,500 miles.

  18. JetGreen says:

    Took my first JB E190 flight in April 2008. JFK to Rochester (that’s ROC for you flying folk). It was a rainy day and we were backed up on the tarmac in line to take off. Not sure if it was weather or wake turbulence but the thing pitched extreme left (almost sideways) while climbing out. It recovered as instantly as it pitched, but not before scaring the crap out of most of us (fortunately not literally). Gasps and prayer-a-plenty. (Funny how religous people become on planes.) Lots of bumps the rest of the way and no pilot communication for the entire flight made for a tension-free hour in the air (NOT). All was right with the world again when the wheels touched down and the pilot welcomed us to Rochester as if nothing unusual had happened. My return flight and a couple of flights since then have been A320′s but I’m on an E190 next week (both ways). Looking for a better experience this time.

  19. RMC says:

    Just got back from Hawaii and had the 190 as a connection via Air Canada. De-Icing system failure aborted takeoff on the hash marks. Tried again the next day on another 190 and we were appraised that the “starting” engine had malfunctioned at the gate and that the main engines would started after push off. Noisy motors on aceleration to altitude means these birds are showing their age already…watch for a blanket 190 preventative maintenance shut down in the near future.

  20. Noz says:

    @ RMC:

    This is an aircraft that came into service in 2006 with AC…are you saying they are already old?

  21. RMC says:

    I’m not saying their old, I’m saying they are acting old, which may be due to quality or maintenance. My opinion only.

  22. ROR says:

    this is a great plane for smaller domestic markets. I flew one from Maputo to Jorburg, a 1 hr flight. What i like most is the big windows and its quietness in flight.

  23. I flew one from Amsterdam to Marseille on a KLM flight last December, and I was pleasantly surprised by the aircraft design and the comfort level.

  24. LKL says:

    Thanks for the report. Flying a E190 for the first time in August!
    KLM from AMS-BER so some useful stuff here

  25. jennifer says:

    Hello. Thank you for all this information onthe erj 190. I am one of those horrified passengers while flying. I just booked a flight with jetblue for November , and just found out the plane I will fly on will be an erj 190. I have never heard of this plane before. After reading all your comments here I do feel a lot better. Can someone confirm me how will the turbulence feel? I heard a few comments saying that you feel more movement while flying in this type of plane, and how much power will I feel at takeoff? I hate the take offs…thanks

  26. Flew an E190 (AC) from Vancouver to Calgary this week. Was pleasantly surprised, the 2+2 cabin configuration was a pleasant surprise. The ride was noticeably quieter than previous 737 flights and the seat room was adequate until the giant in front of me reclined his seat. Flying back from Calgary was a blustery day with the Chinook howling in from the mountains, but the aircraft handled this beautifully with hardly a bump. My favorite regional jet – hands down!

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