• WorldTravelReport

United’s Brand-New Game Changing Regional Jet

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Recently, Chicago Based United Airlines rolled out a brand-new aircraft for some of their regional markets. The aircraft is a Bombardier CRJ-500. United is the only airline in the world to operate 550’s, but it actually isn’t an entirely new aircraft. The -550’s were originally 76 seat CRJ-700's that have been reconfigured to a spacious 50 seat cabin. The loss of the 26 seats makes for a huge difference in many aspects. All of United’s CRJ-550 aircraft are being operated by GoJet Airlines, which currently is a regional carrier for both United and Delta but will soon be a United Express carrier only.  

I flew the brand new -550 on a relatively short flight from Des Moines, Iowa, to Chicago-O’Hare, which is where all of the -550 flights operate to as of now. The aircraft is laid out in a 1-2 configuration in first-class with a total of 10 seats, then a 2-2 configuration in Economy Plus and economy. The aircraft has 20 Economy Plus seats and 20 traditional economy seats. Row 7 of Economy Plus offers the best legroom on the aircraft and might be the most legroom I have ever seen in an economy seat, so if you are flying in this cabin, try to sit in the bulkhead row 7. The first-class section has a very unique setup, as well. Passengers seated in the first-class section have a “help yourself” snack and drink cooler by the main front boarding doors, which you can help yourself to the entire flight. The flight attendant will do the first round of drinks and snacks, but after that, you’re on your own as far as that goes. Now, as you may know, one of the most annoying things about flying on regional jets, especially CRJ’s is that usually, you have to gate check your carry-on because it won’t fit in the overhead bins. However, on the –550, the aircraft has a sizable four-shelf cubby holder right behind first class that can fit numerous amounts of bags, so you shouldn’t need to gate check your bag. The aircraft also offers fast in-flight Wi-Fi and personal streaming to your device through the United App, which is filled with movies, tv shows, and games. The aircraft does not have power outlets, though, which I found to be a bit surprising considering how many other features the aircraft had.  

Now to the actual flight, I was traveling on-board United Express 4514 from DSM-ORD with a scheduled departure time of 11:14 AM and an arrival time of 12:44 PM. I was booked into Economy Plus seat 8D, which is a window seat on the right side of the plane, but about 30 minutes before departure, I was upgraded to 3D in the first-class section. I was very excited when I found out this because I truly wanted to see if this was the “best” first-class on a regional jet. The lovely gate agent allowed me to board a few minutes early to talk with the crew and take some cabin photos. It was interesting to see just one flight attendant in the aircraft since the plane has on is as big as a CRJ-700, but the FAA only requires one flight attendant per 50 seats. For every additional 50 seats, you need another flight attendant which is why the traditional-700 needs two since it has 76 seats. I was curious to see how a single flight attendant would handle both first-class and economy services on one short flight. The legroom in 3D was excellent at 42 inches of pitch, 5 inches more than their own CRJ-700's have in first class. The aircraft had a new plane smell and really was nice and polished on the inside. Our particular CRJ-550 was registered N543GJ, which is a 13-year-old aircraft originally registered N164GJ as a Bombardier CRJ-700.  

Boarding was completed in about 15 minutes, and from what I saw, no carry-on bags had to be checked, which was great. We pushed back a few minutes early and was in the air at 11:16 AM. During the climb up to our cruising altitude of 23,000 feet, the flight attendant began servicing the first-class cabin. This is where the flight became really impressive. Not only did the flight attendant give drinks of your choice in a real glass and bring around a snack basket to choose from, but she also handed out a premium cheese and cracker set. Remember, this is only a 53-minute flight, so to see this was very surprising, especially on a regional jet, but it just adds to the true “premium” feel of this aircraft. After snack service, the flight was quite uneventful as we made our way over the Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois skies into O’Hare.  

We landed at 12:09 PM, 35 minutes early, and made our taxi to the gate. Another significant part of this flight was the fact that we landed 35 minutes early into O’Hare, and the gate was open! After saying my goodbyes to the crew, I found myself in terminal C of O’Hare 25 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time. So, in the two hours from boarding to deplaning I flew roughly 300 miles, had a drink, cheese plate, some chips, watched a movie, and made it to Chicago all on a regional plane I don’t think any people can say they have done that before, I sure know I can’t.  

As of right now (December ‘19), here are the routes you can fly on a CRJ-500, and you can see for yourself and how amazing this aircraft is! 

Chicago-O'Hare to: 

Allentown, Pennsylvania 

Bentonville, Arkansas 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

Cincinnati, Ohio 

Columbus, Ohio  

Des Moines, Iowa 

Grand Rapids, Michigan 

Greensboro, North Carolina 

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 

Indianapolis, Indiana 

Madison, Wisconsin 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 

Richmond, Virginia 

St. Louis, Missouri  

Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Overall the Bombardier CRJ-500 for United Express operated by GoJet is a game-changer in the regional aviation world from its comfort to style of service and everything in between. I look forward to my next flight on a –550, and I hope you can try one out for yourself soon! 

-Brandon Aronoff 

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