New Regional Jet

Friday, August 6, 2010 - 8:49am

Regional airline redesigns the traditional, cramped commuter jet.

Most airline passengers hate them. Those small regional jets with cramped leg room, and overhead bins barely big enough for a purse.

So would you be willing to pay more for a bigger seat on one of those little planes? Ft. Worth-based American Eagle is betting the answer is yes.

It's a brand new plane, about to carry passengers for the first time.

And on board, it's a new look for American Eagle.

The commuter airline is trying to change what you think about those small regional jets. Up front, they've added a first class cabin with bigger seats.

First class means eagle will serve meals for the first time to premium passengers.

It's all part of a plan to reel in more of the business travelers airlines covet.

Andrea Huguely of American Eagle Airlines says "our business customer has asked for first class in our regional service and we have been able to provide that."

But even back in coach you'll notice some changes.

The ceiling in here is designed for more headroom. No more crouching down walking through the aisles like on some regional jets. And the first class cabin is set up to feel more like what you'd find on a full-size jet.

Airline industry watchers say Eagle needed first class cabins to compete.

Tom Parsons, the CEO of says "if they don't catch up they're going to lose those high flying business travelers."

Business travelers willing to pay a lot more for comfort.

We checked and some of these first class seats are selling for as much as $1,000 dollars more than coach.

Tom Parsons says "the more options that business traveler has that high paying traveler the one that pays a bunch of bucks they are very picky."

American Eagle says the changes are already paying off.

Andrea Huguely says "our first class is booked and has been booked since we started selling the service since July 2nd."

Small planes designed to feel bigger with a much bigger potential for profits.

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