What it’s like to fly on the new QantasLink Embraer E190

Executive Traveller takes the latest addition to the QantasLink fleet on a journey through the Northern Territory.

By Chris Chamberlin, August 18 2021
What it’s like to fly on the new QantasLink Embraer E190

Through its partnership with Alliance Airlines, QantasLink now counts Embraer E190s among its growing regional fleet, joining other smaller-sized jets like the Boeing 717 and Fokker 100.

With around half the capacity of a Boeing 737 – a modest 94 seats, with 10 business class and 84 economy – the E190s are a perfect fit on less-travelled routes where the Boeing 737 would be too large.

It’s for that reason the E190 is popular with airlines around the world.

KLM’s Cityhopper regularly flies them on short journeys such as London Heathrow to Amsterdam, while Qantas rival Virgin Australia (and before that, Virgin Blue) once had a fleet of 18 Embraer E190 jets.

The Embraer E-Jet family is also a familiar sight in North American skies, with Air Canada Jazz, Delta Connection, United Express and others using the planes as part of their short-haul arsenal.

This writer has flown on all of the above, and appreciates many attributes of the nimble little E-Jets – so what are our impressions of the new QantasLink/Alliance Airlines Embraer E190s? 

While most travellers will be familiar with the likes of Airbus and Boeing, rival Embraer isn't to be overlooked.

Now with four E190s in the Alliance fleet – which fly on behalf of QantasLink – that's on-track to grow to 18 E190s, all of which will serve across QantasLink routes.

Read: QantasLink grows regional Embraer E190 fleet

In some respects, flying on Alliance as a QantasLink passenger is similar to a codeshare – the journey is booked through Qantas on a QF flight number, but with an Alliance jet doing the flying.

Where this differs from other codeshares, however, is that QantasLink defines the service standards on board – Alliance isn't also carrying its 'own' passengers on the same flight.

The Embraer E190 is also a savvy pick for the airline, striking a balance between inflight comfort and schedule on routes with fewer passengers each day: particularly those to central Australia.

For instance, with the E190 carrying just over half as many passengers as a Boeing 737, each flight is easier to fill – and thus, easier to fly profitably – without subjecting travellers to a noisier plane like the Dash 8.

These E190s will eventually be painted in full QantasLink colours as below, but for now, retain their 'Alliance' branding.

Right now, these E190 jets appear on selected QantasLink routes across the Northern Territory, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory.

At the time of writing, these include:

  • Darwin to Alice Springs
  • Alice Springs to Darwin
  • Canberra to Darwin
  • Darwin to Canberra
  • Adelaide to Alice Springs
  • Alice Springs to Adelaide

The E190s don't necessarily operate every Qantas flight between these cities – Boeing 737s also appear between Alice and Adelaide, for instance – but this is where you're most likely to find them.

Like many airlines flying the Embraer E190, passengers have a choice between business class and economy.

Recognising that the plane is smaller than the Boeing 737 – not only in length, but width, too – business class comes in a 1-2 layout.

This makes the 'A' seats the prized pick for solo travellers, providing both a window view and direct aisle access.

On the other side of the cabin, the seats come in pairs.

Economy adopts a 2-2 layout instead:

This means every traveller gets either a window or aisle seat – no middle seats here.

A key difference with the Qantas Boeing 737s is that there's no adjustable headrest, although my aisle seat proved perfectly comfortable on a two-hour flight.

Another, is that the overhead lockers on the E190s are generally smaller than the Boeing 737s, and in economy, bags with wheels generally need to be stored side-on, rather than wheels-back.

So, how's the legroom?

Up the front in business class, there's plenty of it. With a pitch of 38 inches (96.5cm), your knees don't come close to the seat pocket, even when thicker items are stored inside.

In economy, a standard pitch of 31 inches (79cm) puts your space a notch above that of a Qantas Boeing 737.

Of course, the space in economy gets tighter when the seatback pocket is in use, so consider keeping larger items in a bag by your feet to maximise your knee room.

Here's the biggest difference between these E190s and Qantas' Boeing 737s: the E190s provide zero inflight entertainment.

That means no seatback screens, no content streaming over WiFi and definitely no inflight Internet. 

Accordingly, you'll want to bring your own entertainment with you – whether that's a book, music with headphones, or downloaded TV shows and movies to pass the time.

Do take note, seatback tablet holders aren't provided in business or economy, so you'll need to hold onto your device, or use the tray table.

Passengers travelling on the E190s are offered food and drinks tailored to the departure time and length of each flight.

In business class, that normally means a hot meal, with a late afternoon flight from Darwin to Alice Springs serving up a scrumptious beef brisket, paired with a glass of 2014 Barossa Cabernet:

After the main meal service, tea, coffee, and other beverages remain available, too.

In economy, the food tends to be more snack-sized, with a dinnertime flight back from Alice to Darwin finding a small boxed kale, fetta and tomato pie, aside an offer of complimentary beer, wine, and other beverages.

At two hours from gate to gate, crew came through the cabin after the snack service to offer another round of complimentary drinks, as is common on evening flights.

Qantas' Embraer E190 services can be reserved in the same way as any other Qantas flight – such as through travel agents, or by using the Qantas website.

You'll know the E190 is planned for your journey by looking for the 'E190' logo, just below the flight number:

As you can see, these departures can also be booked using Qantas Points in business class and economy, at the same rate as all other Qantas and QantasLink flights of the same length.

Typical benefits such as pre-flight lounge access and status-based baggage allowances also apply to those eligible: again, in line with what you'd expect of a regular Qantas flight.

Also read: Qantas adopts Alliance Embraer E190 for regional routes

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Alice Springs as a guest of QantasLink.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jun 2013

Total posts 7

They are also doing most direct flights between Darwin and Adelaide too.

Qantas has reverted to Boeing 737s on Darwin-Adelaide - but of course, the E190 could well return in future.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 May 2017

Total posts 3

Being trapped in Sydney for several weeks and seemingly another year to go the question really should be “What’s it like to fly?”  

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1368

The comparison is with the 737 but perhaps the 717 may be better being of a more or less similar seat count.

Lmc
Lmc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 98

For the price on these routes, business class doesn’t look that appealing. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 72

great review and aircraft thank you

QantasFF

16 Nov 2012

Total posts 60

Haven't tried the Alliance version, but a few years ago flew on a BA Embraer from the (wonderfully convenient) London City Airport to Madrid Barajas. Really comfortable experience in economy.

The seats look old and beaten up - stretched and creased covers in business, discoloured and chipped plastics, etc. Good for Alliance, but again this is Qantas going as cheap as possible on customers, while many other airlines around the world are buying new regional jets, not just E-jets but also A200-series.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 26

That interior depresses me.  Those shabby seats are a disgrace.

22 Jan 2019

Total posts 3

While the Embraer's avoid the middle seat in Economy, for those who like to look out the window, the higher risk of getting a 'window' seat without a window or only a small portion of a window (the 737 Row 9 issue multiplied) is a tad annoying. An aircraft issue not airline I know. 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 205

Ive flow the Embraer 190 with United Express in C several times for the short hop from Washington Dulles  to Newark.  Its really tiny, lacks any real overhead stowage and going to the loo is almost impossible for someone who is 6 ft2 The aircraft is quite similar to Swiss' C200/C300 rebranded as A220 but somehow not so squeezy on Swiss

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 190

I fly these in the US on routes like Orange County to San Francisco, always like them.  For a small aircraft they’re comfortable and quiet.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Aug 2021

Total posts 1

When booking a return flight Adelaide - Hobart then Hobart to Adelaide on the new Qantas / Alliance flights form September, you can earn points & status credits to Hobart but not on the return flight? anyone know why this could be?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1268

You will earn as per usual; it's just the web site glitching.

I flew Adelaide to Gold Coast on the second-only flight from Adelaide before QLD lockdown. Was in business class using my FF points and in-seat 1 A was excellent being the single seat. Smooth flight food and drink OK, but missed TV and WIFI. But the view was great, the service also was good and I am looking forward to flying back to Gold Coast again on the E190 as soon as the borders open. The toilet is a little smaller, but overall a nice business class flight.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

19 Jul 2014

Total posts 26

QF certainly have a pair, charging almost $1200 for a two hour stunted flight. Go for it Alan round it up to 2grand.

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 26

I've flown a few E190 flights and like the plane overall.  But the interior of that plane looks tatty and old already!  Also no inflight entertainment?  Airlines overseas like JetBlue have seatback entertainment and Wi-fi in their E190s.  It's a sorry state of affairs when you get better services in a US carrier than Qantas.

16 Jul 2021

Total posts 2

I'm impressed with the meals standard - having just flown 737 Perth-Broome & return - flights lasting 2 1/2 hours each. Morning tea/coffee & small packet of biscuits outbound. Afternoon 2 pkts of savoury biscuits, onion jam & wine/beer. Appalling!

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 26

Agree.  Qantas pretty much ranks below the major US carriers these days on domestic flights - I never thought I'd see the day.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 355

That aircraft in the pics, probably like most Alliance aircraft have been shuttling FIFOs to/from mining sites around the dusty outback, no wonder they look like they’ve seen better days. 

07 Nov 2020

Total posts 26

No, it's more likely that's the condition they were received in from American Airlines and COPA.  Remember these planes are second hand.  I would have thought they'd at least refurbish the interiors but apparently not.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 191

the 2-x2 economy seating is better than the 3x3 for sure but business seats should have been replaced and only 1x1 for a price of 1200?????Come on Alan wake up and don't try to suck us dry with these exorbitant fares!-I flew a few times with old Virgin and more cosier than the 737 for sure

17 Jun 2021

Total posts 2

The state of the cabin interior as mentioned by others is disappointing. Even the cabin lights are the old yellow things. One would have through QF had provided a minimum spec sheet to alliance for the insides, but alas QLink is treated only as a cash cow for regional Australia. As shame.


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