Me about to board the Q400 in Seattle. I should have waved, presidential-style.
I have flown the route from Seattle to Reno many times in my life. From Reno Air back in the day, to Southwest, to America West to Alaska Airlines. The flight is easy, only about 1.5hrs, enough time to take off, get a drink and snacks and start the descent. In April 2008 Horizon Air took over the route for Alaska and since then, they have been the cheapest to fly. I actually prefer the flight on Horizon’s Q400’s versus Alaska’s Boeing 737 (or MD-80’s back in the day).
The main reason is, I love flying in smaller planes. It really lets the passenger connect with the flying experience. I think a lot of people do not like flying on smaller planes just for this reason. Unlike the larger planes, you get to board on the tarmac, which allows you to see the entire plane, not just a few inches around the door when you board in a jetway. The inside of the Q400 is set up in a 2-2 layout, so you always get a window or aisle. Of course I always go for the window, but I am happy to know if I don’t get one, I won’t be stuck in the middle.
Mount Rainier, just outside of Seattle, was one of many mountains you can see on the Seattle to Reno flight.
On this trip I was in a group of four people, which allowed me to get a few photos of me with the plane and even better photos from both sides of the plane while flying. The flight from Seattle to Reno is beautiful. From Mount Rainier to Crater Lake, if it isn’t cloudy, you are in for a real treat. The Q400’s fly quite a bit lower at about 25,000 feet versus 30,000 to 40,000 with larger aircraft and their wings are high, which means everyone has an awesome view.
We all checked in the day before online and only had carry-ons, so we didn’t have to wait in any Horizon lines, just put up with the security ones. Horizon has a semi-hybrid option between carry-on and checking your bags, called Ala Cart. Since the overhead bins are smaller than you would find on larger aircraft, not all carry-ons can fit in them. If yours cannot fit or you don’t want to lug it on the plane you can put your carry-on on a cart while boarding. They will put it on another cart when you arrive at your destination. It’s way quicker than having to wait in baggage claim not to mention, the Ala Cart option is free. If you do need to check your bag, it will cost you $20 per bag, up to 3 bags. Like their sister carrier, Alaska Airlines, Horizon also provides the 20 minute checked baggage guarantee.
Beautiful downtown Reno, just about to land.
Talking about Alaska Airlines, Horizon’s relationship with them is quite unique. Some people think of Horizon as Alaska’s regional carrier, but they are set up very differently. Both airlines have a parent company, Alaska Air Group which owns and manages both airlines. Most regionals fly for a larger airlines for fees and Horizon will sometimes fly for Alaska, but they mostly fly under their own brand. Horizon has their own marketing department, their own ads and unique brand of service. You will see the two airlines share a website together, but both logos are prominently displayed.
One thing that does make Horizon unique is offering free, regional wines and micro-brews, ah yea…can’t miss out on this. Our flight left at 7:40am, but that didn’t stop us from trying out some of that free local wine and beer. I mean, come-on it was the blog right?! Horizon is also offering free snack-packs on their Seattle to Portland flight, but I have yet been able to experience that first hand.
Passengers were able to de-board from the front and back of the Q400, making it super quick. Employees are getting the Ala Cart bags out.
A passenger in our group (we shall call her “Rita”) was a little apprehensive about flying on a smaller aircraft. I know many others out there have that same fear. However, I quickly pointed out that Horizon Air is extremely safe and has never had a fatality since they started flying in 1981 and haven’t had any sort of incident since 1990. That made Rita feel much more comfortable and after the flight she very much loved her Horizon experience (maybe the glass of wine she had at 8am helped too).
The Horizon Q400’s might be a bit slower than jet airliners, but they are much more cost effective and friendly for the environment. Horizon has green stickers on each of their planes touting how green they are and even painted one of their Q400’s entirely green (can you see “Shrek” as they call it here or here?)
I definitely get excited to fly on Horizon and flying on the Q400’s and hope that some of you can feel a bit more at ease flying in smaller planes in the future.
Check out my (ok our, thanks Ben, Rita and Amy) additional pictures of the trip.
UPDATE: I have been informed there are two green Q400’s, nicknamed “Shrek” and “Fiona.”
Me in front of the first ERJ-145 I flew after landing at Mazatlan Airport. I love being able to get close to the plane on the tarmac.
I am currently about 37,000 feet on a Continental Express ERJ-145. I am heading from Mazatlan, Mexico (MZT) to Houston, TX (IAH), then on to my home in Seattle (SEA) [which will be on a Boeing 757]. Well, sort of…right now, as I write this blog, it is the morning of Saturday May 8th. My flight does not have wi-fi, but I am writing it in notepad and will post it up on Monday the 10th. Every time I am in the air, I always try to write up at least a few blogs, since I love the inspiration.
This is my second flight in a regional jet, my first being a week ago heading from IAH to MZT. It is quite amazing, with all my flying experience I have not flown on a ERJ-145. My home base is in Seattle and there just aren’t many flights with regional jets to and from SEA.
When booking my flight, I purposely choose Continental since I would be able to fly on an ERJ-145 (I know, I have heard the “airline nerd” jokes already). I have heard some positive, but mostly negative things about flying the aircraft and I was excited to check it out myself.
The 1-2 layout is nice, but small overhead-bins are only on one side.
There are a lot of people out there that do not like flying in smaller planes. They will go out of their way and pay more to avoid them. Yes, the ride can be more bumpy, there are normally less experienced pilots flying them, and it can be a tight fit. However, I think the positives out weigh the negatives.
For me, the smaller the aircraft let me feel more connected to the flying experience. I understand that some people like to forget they are in a man-made machine 37,000 feet above the ground, but not me.
I enjoy the 1-2 seat layout. There is a single seat on the left side of the plane and two seats on the right side of the plane. This means that every person either has a window or aisle seat. On both flights I sat on the single seat side. It is nice being able to see out the window and have easy access to the aisle.
The seats feel quite roomy and the ERJ-145 has 17.3″ width and 31″ pitch, which isn’t bad. The Boeing 737-800 I flew from SEA to IAH also had 31″ pitch and only 17.2″ width.
Don't make fun of my hecka-awesome shades or my man-beard. Headroom wasn't so great for being 6'1".
The ERJ-145 only holds 50 passengers, which gives it an intimate experience. I seems easier to talk to other passengers and get to know those around me. Since there are less passengers, the turn around time of the aircraft is very short (time from landing to being able to take off again). This allows airlines to provide more flight options to destinations and more flights to smaller airports.
There are a few downsides to the ERJ-145. I am currently sitting in row 17 of 19 rows. The only lavatory is located at the back of the aircraft. It seems not many people went to the restroom before taking off, since a lot of folks have made a visit back here. I could see where this would be distracting for someone wanting to sleep.
There is also very limited carry-on room. If you are trying to bring on bigger carry-ons, be prepared to have them checked. Out of the five of us travelling in my group, only two were able to bring their carry-ons aboard (and we were able to take all of them on board the Boeing 737 from SEA to IAH).
I have heard people talk about service on smaller regional aircraft can be sub-par. Even though I have experienced great service on some smaller airlines, like Horizon Air (the free beer or wine helps), I have personally seen a lower level of service when flying regional aircraft. Although I did get a free snack (this will be short lived), the flight attendants, both to and from MZT, definitely were not friendly and were quite rude to passengers. It could have just been a coincidence, but it was noticeable.
My flights to and from MZT were Continental Express, which is run by ExpressJet, however, the Continental name is on the airplane and on my ticket. I strongly feel that is a larger airline is willing to put their name on a regional airline, they are partly responsible for the quality of service one receives. Passengers should have a consistent level of service no matter what kind of aircraft they are flying.
The ERJ-145 is built by Embraer, an airplane manufacture based out of Brazil. The aircraft first flew in August 1995 and started service with airlines in 1996. To date over 1,100 ERJ’s have been manufactured. With so many ERJ-145’s out there and many more on order, I have a feeling this won’t be my last experience with this aircraft type.
Find a few more pics via my Flickr account.
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