I’ve been on a Bombardier CRJ-200 over 100 times. Let me tell you what it’s like to be a passenger:
…this means we can fly for another airline at any time.
First, the good news; you won’t have to fight for overhead space. So boarding later isn’t a punishment for having a life beyond becoming an airport hobo. That’s because the overhead bins can’t fit anything larger than a duffel bag, laptop bag, or backpack. Most carry-on luggage won’t fit (there’s a few bags sculpted for it) in the CRJ-200’s overhead bins. You have to “gate check” the luggage beforehand, and either put in on a rack before boarding, or leave it at the end of the jet bridge for an attendant to chuck it on. I will say that I’ve seen the baggage loaders seem to take a bit more care with this luggage rather than traditional full-sized luggage.
This is a step up from emptying the lav systems, but I don’t know the chain of command.
I’m 5’10”, and have to duck when boarding. You’ll be surprised to know that even aircraft-grade aluminum doesn’t give very much when you strike it with the toughest bone in your body. After that, the sole flight attendant will warn you about the low clearance. Then there’s aforementioned luggage bins, better duck around those too. Walking inside the Bombardier CRJ-200 is a lot like being inside an elongated egg chair, but with far less privacy. This also makes finding your seat a little tricky, because the seat numbers don’t seem to match up. There’s the possibility of a conga line dance during the boarding process, as most people accidentally sit in the wrong row, and may swap.
The seats are narrow, and padding is minimal. They’re tolerable for a 45-miute flight, but uncomfortable as the clock runs towards two-hour flights. I enjoy a window seat, but the interior curvature intrudes into the footwell and pokes to your shoulder or the side of your head. The window is misaligned, placed about 6-12″ lower than any adult can look out of it, without putting their head between their legs. So I recommend you pick an aisle seat, unless you’re Elastigirl or a narrow-body human. Your seat will not recline very far; just enough that the passenger in front of you who also wishes to recline their seat will likely make your desired laptop usage extremely difficult. Use a phone, tablet, netbook (remember those? this is where they come in spades) or read a book instead. Try not to bang you knee into the seat hinge in front of you.
When you walked down the jet-bridge or looked at the in-flight magazine, you saw crystal clear images of gentle colors and a spacious, airy design. The perfect marriage of mechanized flight and heavenly comfort! You’ll be entertained, fed sumptuous meals, click on the Wi-Fi, get some work completed in silence, sleep like a gentle child, and wake up refreshed. None of that applies here, because it doesn’t exist in this regional jet. The interior will be worn out, and look as if it hadn’t been cleaned in a month. The musty smell of decaying plastics and worn pleather await you. What surprises will you find in the seat pocket (you have a seat pocket, right?) and there’s the comforting thought that the well-worn seatbelt must function properly as per some FAA regulation.
The interior will rattle as a 20 year-old car on takeoff, the intermittent reading light won’t click on, and the A/C condensation will drip right onto your laptop. If you treated yourself to the last row to the plane, you probably found your seat won’t recline, it’s close to the lavatory that hasn’t quite grown up to be an adult airplane restroom, and is close to the whine of a GE CF34 engine. Thankfully, it’s not loud nor very high-pitched (take that, Super-80s!) so it’s merely an annoyance. That window shade may take Herculean strength to open and close, or may not stay open. Sometimes the window is merely distorted, other times, it served as a cutting board in a previous life. If you’re lucky, the view won’t look like this:
Ginsu Knives have lifetime warranties.
Then there’s the temperature controls. Your feet and bag will freeze no matter what time of year, because the only apparent A/C setting is the one which keeps ice cream solid. (Note: they do not serve ice cream on regional flights.) The air vents above you may or may not work. On a hot summer’s day, expect them to blow as a house cat might sneeze. The condensation is amusing during the boarding; watch for at least one passenger to re-read the passenger safety information card when this happens:
Africa on top, Antarctica on the bottom. Just like nature intended.
You know what they say: Turbulence Happens. Just as rough weather invokes a Small Craft Advisory, a small aircraft is prone to performing all sorts of sudden dance moves. The flight attendant will come by with their tiny cart, if the flight isn’t too short to permit service. Hopefully your tray table will lower evenly, the coffee maker will operate, and they have running water. Don’t think about the cleanliness of the tray table. Or that you paid as much (or more) than passengers in a competitive airfare market for this flight. Or that it was operated by a regional carrier in contract with the airline, so good luck suing anyone with cash reserves should things get really pear-shaped.
But after you’ve enjoyed your hopefully short flight and maybe even a beverage, it’s probably time to land. Like many regional jets, landings are rarely smooth in the CRJ-200. Imagine accidentally running over a speed bump you couldn’t see, and the amplified sound of stepping on a box of graham crackers, and you’ve got the idea. Watch your head when you get up from your seat. Is there even a jet bridge? …if so, watch your step. If you had gate-checked luggage, wait to the side of the jet bridge where the tagged luggage appears. Usually, an orderly line forms, and then the last half-dozen disembarkers block everything because they have no idea what is going on. It’s okay…your luggage will be last. If you have a connecting flight to a larger city than where you came from, you may have to trot to your gate. Apparently, CRJ-200s and Boeing 737s growl at each other all day, and have to be separated.
Don’t worry, it’s not like you have to take the same aircraft home. I mean, you’ll get the same type of aircraft, but there’s only a 1-in-60 chance you’ll wind up in the exact airplane. Hopefully, it will be running on time (did I mention the regionals have the worst on-time ratios?) and maybe even cleaner than a nightclub. So the Bombardier CRJ-200 might be the best reason to rent a car and drive to your destination (or larger airport). Unless time is of utmost importance, or you’re getting a sweet deal to fly from home, try something else to fly in.