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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.

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