They are the bane of travelers' existence. Regional jets. Even the words curdle my blood. Cramped seats. No overhead storage space to speak of. Planes that look like they were past their prime in the '70s. But as USA TODAY reported earlier this week, that's becoming a thing of the past, at least on some routes.
Enter United, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the heels of its exit from bankruptcy protection. The airline is pushing its new "Explus" service as the answer to too-tight jets. The new planes—totaling 66 to 70 seats as opposed to the traditional 50—boast a first-class cabin and some Economy Plus seats as well, in addition to the regular cattle car seats in the back.
The new jets fly from each of United's hub airports (Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and D.C.), but don't expect to see them everywhere. They're only appearing on routes frequented by business travelers, and the move is aimed almost entirely at appeasing the disillusioned biz travel crowd—a focus of United's post-bankruptcy strategy.
I've been as critical of United as anyone, but this is a good move. A great move, actually, considering that Northwest plans to phase out its more comfortable regional jets, and no other airlines are rising to challenge United in this area. Differentiation is a key to success for the airline, but more importantly comfortable seats are a big part of a good travel experience.
Now if United would just phase out the old jets from all its routes, I'd be a happy traveler.