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?
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the plane
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the routes
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the seats
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the legroom
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the entertainment
- QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: food and drink
- Booking a QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190 flight
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the plane
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.
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.
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the routes
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.
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the seats
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.
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the legroom
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.
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: the entertainment
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.
QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190: food and drink
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.
Booking a QantasLink / Alliance Airlines Embraer E190 flight
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.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Alice Springs as a guest of QantasLink.