United Express CRJ-200 review: quirkiness *can* be a virtue

United Express CRJ-200 review: quirkiness *can* be a virtue

Yes. Everything you’ve heard is true. Flying on a United CRJ-200 is about as craptastic as it gets when it comes to commercial air travel.

The windows are so low that you’ll hurt your neck trying to see what’s happening outside. The seats are so narrow that you’ll be rubbing thighs with the person sitting next to you. The white plastic walls turned yellow 15 years ago, and touching any of the stains you encounter without being fully vaccinated is a recipe for disaster.

That said, there comes a point when it starts being cool to be an outcast. On a recent trip between Flint and Chicago, I discovered that the CRJ-200 just might be annoying (and disgusting) enough to be fun.

Flint, MI (FNT) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Monday, October 23, 2023
Aircraft: CRJ-200
Registration: N956SW
Duration: 51 minutes
Seat: 3D

United Express CRJ-200 (N956SW) side view
United Express CRJ-200 (N956SW) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com.
ua4805 flight track
Our route from Flint to Chicago this afternoon as UA4805. Mother Nature was a little more than hell-bent on preventing us from seeing anything along the way unfortunately.

My full review of the United Express CRJ-200 from Flint to Chicago

I’m no rookie when it comes to the CRJ-200. This 51-minute hop from FNT to ORD was my 47th flight on one of these little regional jets, and I’ve absolutely despised nearly every one of those experiences. But it’s 2023, this aircraft is getting on in years, and I’m starting to feel nostalgic. It’s amazing how a little nostalgia can make me say nice things about stuff I used to hate.

Arrival at the Flint Bishop international airport

Those of you who read my American Eagle ERJ 145 review already know how much I enjoy flying out of FNT. It’s a small (and efficient) airport, so arriving one full hour before boarding time will always be too soon.

Arrival at the flint bishop international airport
Welcome to (and sayonara from) the Flint Bishop International Airport!
United Airlines check in counter flint bishop international airport
WTF is happening here in Flint which necessitates machinery of this kind here at the United check-in counter? They seem to be ready for an apocalypse of some kind.
SANspotter going up the escalator Flint bishop international airport (FNT)
Ready or not, I’m about to fly on a CRJ-200 for the 47th time. Maybe I’ll get lucky and there will be a 777-300ER parked at the gate instead?
FNT terminal pre-security area
Nothing I’m seeing so far here in the terminal is leading me to believe that there is enough demand for this flight to justify anything but a CRJ-200. Crap!
Flint bishop international Airport empty main terminal
At the very least, having all this room to spread out is just the thing you’ll need to prepare yourself for a flight on a tiny (and very cramped) regional jet.
SANspotter standing at the window FNT airport terminal
Patiently waiting for that little bastard to arrive from Chicago.
United Express CRJ-200 parked at gate 1 Flint bishop international airport
It arrived (exactly on time, in one piece, and seemingly capable of flying back to ORD under its own power). Looks like my 47th flight on a CRJ-200 is about to happen whether I like it or not.

I found it interesting that this particular aircraft (N956SW) was operated by Skywest. Flint seems to be awfully far east for an aircraft operated by a western regional carrier, so I’m not exactly sure how it ended up here. Perhaps it was being punished for something.

The boarding process

It was looking to be a very full flight in the moments leading up to the boarding process. The gate area was completely full (full of people not looking very excited about flying on a United CRJ-200 lol), and boarding was called precisely on time. I was on my way down the jet bridge within minutes.

Gate 1 FNT
Gate 1 is where the escape from Flint will be happening this afternoon.
United express mobile boarding pass FNT-ORD
Uh oh. Everything looks correct here on my boarding pass (which isn’t what you want to see when you’re desperately trying to avoid adding another CRJ-200 segment to your flight log).
FNT airport jet bridge carpet
“This carpet is dope, yo.” (Anything to take my mind off the airplane that I despise the most is a good thing I guess).
United crj-200 boarding door
OK, get ready to tuck in those extremities, because s**t’s about to get real.
United Express CRJ-200 main cabin
The United Express CRJ-200 main cabin. Dragging your head along the ceiling as you walk down the aisle is normal. Don’t panic. Keep going.

The seats

Every seat on the United Express CRJ-200 is the same. There are no first class seats (or any with extra legroom for that matter). It’s all economy class in a 2-2 layout, and every seat sucks.

United express CRJ-200 seats
United express CRJ-200 seats. Closing your eyes imagining a “happy place” might be the only way to slip into one without cussing.
United CRJ-200 row 3
Yup. The view across the aisle to the other side sucks just as hard.
SANspotter looking out the window of a United Express CRJ-200
Honestly (and don’t tell anyone that I said this), it’s not that bad. I probably wouldn’t have all that much to complain about if it weren’t for the low windows.
United CRJ-200 seat details
Wait. I take that back. It’s just too much fun to be overly critical of an interior as stylish as what you’d find in a ’77 Lincoln Continental. The build quality is right up there as well.
United CRJ-200 legroom
Realizing that there’s zero justification to complain about a lack of legroom hurts more than you know. This was supposed to be the most epic moment in the entire review!
United CRJ-200 seat pocket
WTF? There weren’t even any used needles (or old bras) stuffed here in the seat pocket to complain about.
SANspotter on a United Express CRJ-200
That moment when you realize that maybe the CRJ-200 isn’t so bad (and you might actually have to say something nice about it for the first time in your pathetic little life).
United CRJ-200 cabin looking forward from row 3
Hmm. The fact that I’m not making a break for it (even though the boarding door is still open) speaks volumes about my tolerance of this situation.

The departure

One of the other really nice things about flying out of Flint is that you’ll never have to wait for a departure slot. You’ll simply push off the gate, taxi out to the runway, and take off. No waiting.

United express CRJ-200 dirty windows
Would it be a true ‘crappy little regional jet’ experience without smudged up windows? I’m certainly getting my money’s worth today.
United CRJ-200 full flight out of Flint Michigan
For those of you that are curious, yes, this was a completely full flight. They may need to upgauge to a 77W yet…
United express crj-200 lining up for takeoff flint bishop international airport
What do you suppose the pilots are thinking at this point? Are they content with shuttling idiots like me between FNT and ORD on a crappy little CRJ-200 all day? Or are they fantasizing about launching a C-130 off a carrier deck somewhere in the South Pacific instead?
SANspotter looking out the window of a united express a crj-200 regional jet
I don’t know about them, but I’d much rather be in Asiana A380 first class right about now. *sigh*
United express crj-200 taking off from flint bishop international airport
Hear that? Imagine a noisy vacuum cleaner at full power (one of those handheld things you can buy for $10 at a yard sale), and you’ll get a sense of what the CRJ-200 sounds like on takeoff.
United express CRJ-200 flying through the clouds
And you thought this was going to be exciting.

In-flight entertainment

Trying to avoid rubbing thighs with the stranger sitting next to me did qualify as ‘in-flight entertainment’ I guess. I actually didn’t mind the fact that there was no Wi-Fi, and it wasn’t all that big of a deal that I wouldn’t be able to stream any movies or TV shows to my personal device. My full concentration was on avoiding thigh contact!

United express CRJ-200 seat back and tray table
I know it’s hard to believe, and I promise that this image is not Photoshopped but…there are no video screens in these seats.
United express CRJ-200 wi-Fi
I don’t even think the Internet existed before the CRJ-200 was designed, so it shouldn’t be of any surprise that Wi-Fi was not available on this flight.
United express CRJ-200 approaching Lake Michigan
Spotting the coastline of Lake Michigan was the highlight of my in-flight entertainment on today’s flight.

The food

Although my assumptions of no food being served on this flight were spot on, it should be noted that you might get a snack and a drink depending on the length of your flight. It’ll probably also depend on the mood of the flight attendant. This was a 51 minute flight to Chicago (and the flight attendant didn’t seem all that proactive), so we got zilch.

Seat comfort

10 years ago, trying to say nice things about the seats on the United Express CRJ-200 would’ve been impossible. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it before now, but the leg room isn’t all that bad actually. Would you believe that it felt darn near as spacious as United 737-800 economy? The horror!

United express CRJ-200 passengers
I think the boredom killed her.
United express CRJ-200 overhead air vent
SANspotter to the rescue! A quick blast of fresh air from the overhead air vent was all it took to bring her back to life.

The descent (and arrival) into ORD

Approaching Chicago O’Hare from the east (over Lake Michigan) is always quite scenic. Especially if it’s sunny. I mean, just look at the pics…

Approaching the western shore of Chicago over Lake Michigan in a united CRJ-200
I haven’t seen water this turquoise since my Hawaiian Airlines 717-200 economy class review! Say what you will about Chicago, but when the sun hits it just right, she shines like a diamond.
Flying over industrial Chicago on approach to ORD in a United express CRJ-200
The tropical vibes were short-lived however. Sunshine can do a lot of amazing things, but it absolutely cannot make a hemorrhoid cream factory look good IMHO.
Arrival at ORD in a United express CRJ-200
Welcome to Chicago! Fingers crossed that this is ORD and not MDW.
United terminals Chicago O'Hare airport
ORD confirmed (unless United recently launched hostile takeover of MDW or something).
United express CRJ-200 pulling up to concourse B Chicago O'Hare airport
Looks like our arrival gate is B22 this afternoon, and anyone familiar with ORD knows just how much of a mother*****r that is. Anyone not familiar with ORD is about to find out why in just a few more pics…
United CRJ-200 generous seat pitch and legroom
Now that we’re nearing the end of this review (and almost nobody gets this far), I think it’s safe to start complementing the CRJ-200 again. Basically – the generous legroom in the seats made this a not so terrible experience.
United express CRJ-200 aisle width
I know! I was expecting more derogatory expletives in this review as well.
United express CRJ-200 forward boarding door frame
Ready to unclench in 3, 2, 1…
SANspotter walking up jet bridge in terminal B ORD
Wait. What?
Gate B22 jet bridge Chicago O'Hare airport
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the mother*****r that is gate B22 here at ORD. If ever there was a longer jet bridge than this to exist, I have yet to find it.

Pros and cons of the United Express CRJ-200 experience

OK. Even though I’ve had a slight change of heart about this admittedly crappy little airplane, that doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to fly on one. All I’m saying is that maybe it’s not as bad as everyone says it is.


  • The legroom is surprisingly spacious for an aircraft of this size.
  • Speaking of size, it’s small enough to be able to get on and off quickly (even if you’re seated in the last row).
  • At the very least, it’s far quieter and smoother than the old United Express EMB-120 turboprop experience.


  • I absolutely despise how narrow the seats are (and the inevitable thigh rubbing that occurs with the person sitting next to me).
  • The windows are so low that it’s almost not even worth it getting a window seat. You’ll have to bend down really low to look outside (and it hurts).

Comments (12)

  1. stevin henderson

    July 20, 2018
    • SANspotter

      July 20, 2018
  2. Albert

    February 4, 2019
    • SANspotter

      February 4, 2019
  3. Peter

    February 23, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 24, 2023
  4. Luca

    November 19, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      November 20, 2023
  5. Paul

    November 20, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      November 20, 2023
  6. Peter

    November 22, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      November 23, 2023

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