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Upgrading your flight: United completes switch to bigger planes for VIA

January 17, 2017 GMT

HARLINGEN — United Airlines has completed its transition to larger aircraft on Harlingen flights, and all the jets to and from Houston and Valley International Airport are now Embraer 175s.

What that means for travelers is a lot more room, and not just with the seating, but the overhead bins are larger, allowing passengers to store luggage with wheels there instead of checking the bags.

“It’s a 76-seater and within that you have 12 first class seats and a number of economy block seating,” Jose Mulet, director of marketing for Valley International, said yesterday.

“If you’re buying a ticket business-class to New York, Chicago, Paris or whatever, you’ll be able to start that seating in Harlingen,” Mulet added.

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He said the Embraer 175 flights to and from Houston will offer two-by-two seating (two rows of two seats) for economy class passengers, a step up from the 50-seat Embraer Regional Jet 145, which has a two-by-one seating configuration.

“The Embraer 145 is a great airplane, however it is late 1990s technology and worked well when the major airline pilots’ contract did not allow their regional carriers to operate any regional jet aircraft larger than 50 seats,” Mulet said. “The new contract allows up to 76 seats, which is what the Embraer 175 and the Bombardier CRJ-900 hold.”

The new Embraer flights are operated by regional carrier Mesa Airlines under contract with United, and there are three round-trip flights per day to and from Harlingen and Houston. Phoenix-based Mesa also provides regional flights for American Airlines.

Mulet said Mesa could add more daily flights to Harlingen during high-traffic periods.

“We hope that during Spring Break they might find me a couple more frequencies a week, but who knows?” Mulet said.

“It’s up to the carrier of course,” Mulet said. “We’ll fill them up.”

rkelley@valleystar.com