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Flying the CRJ in Europe, and why it’s highly underrated

Scandinavian Airlines SAS CRJ-900 Europe underrated

Flying the CRJ in Europe, and why it’s highly underrated

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Last week I took a flight from Stockholm to Paris (CDG) on SK571, a Scandinavian Airlines flight operated by Xfly. That was an interesting one because it meant flying on a CRJ-900 for the two-hour flight, which is a relatively rare thing for SAS. Normally the CRJs are used on flights to smaller cities within the Nordics or at least nearby – usually within about one hour’s range of Stockholm. And in fact this seems to have been a one-off. The flight marked the first time SK571 to Paris had operated since last September – and every flight going forward is scheduled on a more standard A320neo.

CRJ-900 Europe SAS underrated Stockholm Arlanda
After takeoff from Stockholm Arlanda.

The CRJ is underrated

Anyway, I was happy to hear we’d be getting the CRJ. I know that may surprise some. Regional jets tend not to be well-liked because they can feel cramped, and the CRJ seems to get more than its share of criticism. But flying in a CRJ always feels like flying in a sports car to me. Yes the cabin is pretty small, but I prefer a 2-by-2 seating configuration to the more common 3-by-3 seen on A320 and 737 aircraft. How can you complain when there’s no such thing as a middle seat?

CRJ-900 cabin shot SAS Xfly
A look at the CRJ-900 cabin. Note that there are no middle seats.

Also, not all CRJs are created equal. The cabin designs on the newest -900 and -1000 series are an entirely different world from the old CRJ-200s for example. I will admit that the windows leave a lot to be desired as they’re small and square and there aren’t enough of them. But other than that I’m a happy camper on the Canadian jet (never mind that the CRJ program is now owned by Mitsubishi.)

What is Xfly?

The carrier that actually operated this flight is called Xfly. It’s a subsidiary of Estonia’s Nordica, that was previously known as Regional Jet. It planes are all registered in Estonia and it has a fairly international crew. Flight attendants on this one were Estonian and British (but based in Sweden), while on the flight deck was one Estonian and one Swede.

Xfly SAS CRJ-900 Arlanda Stockholm
ES-ACG during boarding.

I thought it might be interesting to look at how many CRJs they have, which of them are currently active, and where they’ve been flying. Note that some of their CRJs operate on behalf of Poland’s LOT.

The active fleet

Out of ten CRJ-900s in total at Xfly (the carrier has one CRJ-700 and two ATRs in addition), six have been active lately, with five of those flying for SAS. The sixth (ES-ACC) has been flying for LOT. Those aircraft are ES-ACMES-ACNES-ACPES-ACB and ES-ACG. The remaining CRJ-900s are currently parked.

The two-hour flight to Paris was very pleasant and easy. SAS flyers will be glad to know that the airline is now serving hot drinks and alcohol within Europe again after far too long without it (though yes, you have to pay for the alcohol). And although Charles de Gaulle is usually not on the list of the world’s most efficient airports, SAS is currently using Terminal 2B there (pre-pandemic they used the interesting-looking but irritating and old Terminal 1) and it is a definite upgrade.

As a bonus we were treated to the sight of a China Southern A380 taking off right alongside us after landing (which made for some nice Instagram material).

In the good old days of early 2020 SAS normally flew between Stockholm and Paris multiple times a day, and in the past it was often on 737s. Going forward SAS’s European flights will be more and more exclusively operated by the A320neo as it thins out its 737 fleet. CRJ or not, let’s hope we see those kinds of frequencies return sooner rather than later.

Featured image © Oscar Wistrand

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