United Embraer 175 first class is fairly tolerable in small doses

United Embraer 175 first class is fairly tolerable in small doses

If you fly United often enough, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to end up on an Embraer 175 at some point. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out a way to nab a seat in first class.

But it’s not like United Express E175 first class is something to strive for or anything. It’s not. Leg room is excellent, but the seats are narrow and the onboard service is essentially nonexistent.

All I’m saying is that you’ll be a little less grumpy in first class than you would be in economy. Not by much, but enough to not look like a total curmudgeon as you sip on your bottled water while trying to avoid eye contact with flight attendant sitting in the jumpseat just ahead of you.

San Diego, CA (SAN) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Aircraft: Embraer 175
Registration: N141SY
Duration: 28 minutes
Seat: 4A (First Class)

United Express E175 (N141SY) side view
United Express E175 (N141SY) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
ua4723 flight track
Our route from San Diego to Los Angeles this morning as UA4723.

My full review of United Embraer E175 first class from San Diego to Los Angeles

Prior to this flight, I’ve experienced this regional first class product exactly 10 times between San Diego and Los Angeles over the past 8 years. I could’ve written this review in my sleep. Nothing has changed since the first time I tried it in 2015, which is both good and bad. Let me explain…

Arrival at the airport

Since this flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30 AM, it required waking up at 4:30. Thankfully I checked my phone before jumping in the shower, because that’s when I learned that this flight had been delayed three hours. 3 freaking hours! For a flight with a scheduled flying time of only 25 minutes, that was a head scratcher for sure. At least I got to sleep in a little.

Curbside Terminal 2 West SAN
Curbside, Terminal 2 West. Current time: 7:57 AM. Yeah, I would already be at LAX if it weren’t for the 3 hour delay, but I did get to sleep in 3 extra hours this morning. It’s hard to be miffed about this.
SANspotter standing outside terminal 2 west San Diego airport
I may not have been miffed, but I can’t say that I wasn’t perturbed by the lack of sunshine this morning. Oh well. It’s just a crappy United Express E175 first class review anyway.
San Diego Airport terminal 2 west departures board
Uh…since when is a flight that was supposed to depart at 6:30 AM (now scheduled to depart at 9:30 AM) qualified to be listed as “On Time”? I guess if we’re spewing lies this morning, I might as well tell you that (despite what I look like), I’m actually 6′-3″ and 215 pounds.
United Airlines ticketing and check in terminal 2 San Diego airport
Is there a tactful way of calling bulls**t on overly optimistic on-time performance metrics? Which line here at the United ticket counter is best for doing that?
Terminal 2 West Stone Brewing Company San Diego airport
Nope – complementary access to the United Club here in Terminal 2 West is not included with a United Express first class ticket. Not even Stone Brewing Company will acknowledge your existence.
United airlines gate 43 terminal 2 San Diego airport
Gate 43 is where this 25 minute flight to LAX will be departing from this morning. May God have mercy the battered (and beaten) soul of anyone who has been sitting here for the past three hours waiting on this flight.
United Embraer 175 gate 43 San Diego airport idiot
There she is. This is the United Embraer 175 that will be taking me up to LAX this morning in all of her “on time” glory.
Sanspotter sitting in the atrium of terminal 2 west San Diego airport
No, I am not oblivious to the fact that I could’ve been at LAX by now even if I drove (in heavy traffic up the 405). I’m a glutton for punishment, OK?

The boarding process

I was seated a bit too far away from the gate to hear the announcement for boarding, but I headed that direction when noticing some general activity in the area. The door was open when I arrived, and there were some people sitting around looking like they were waiting for their group number to be called. I waited. Nothing happened. I waited some more.

After 10 minutes of standing around (directly facing the open door and the gate agent), I decided to step forward and get in line for boarding group 1. Long story short, I was informed that boarding had started 12 minutes ago. Last one on the plane FTW!

United Embraer 175 First Class mobile boarding pass San Diego airport
Who is the bigger idiot here? The person who signed off on the “on time” status, or the guy voluntarily chose to stick with a 25 minute flight that was delayed 3 hours?
Sanspotter checking his watch walking down the jet bridge of gate 43 San Diego airport
United Embraer 175 boarding door
Hello? Anyone home? There’s no one here to greet me at the boarding door, so let’s just hope the pilots decide to show up. I may be driving up to LAX yet…

A closer look at the first class seats

If you have ever flown American Eagle Embraer 175 first class, what I’m about to show you is going to look awfully familiar. That’s because most of the Embraer 175s here on the West Coast are operated by SkyWest, and they work with the major airlines to supply those planes (without doing much with the interior).

First class is a 1-2 layout, with four rows of seats. I highly recommend getting a seat on the single side if you are a solo traveler.

United Embraer 175 First Class
See? First class on the United Embraer 175 doesn’t look that bad actually. More than anything, I’m just glad that I wasn’t the only one stubborn enough to refuse to take another flight (or drive).
United Embraer 175 First Class Seat 4A
I chose seat 4A this flight (as I always do when flying first class on the Embraer 175). Please don’t ask me why. I have no reasonable justification for this.
United Embraer 175 First Class leg room
Say what you will about the Embraer 175 (I know that I’ve said some insulting things about it in the past), but there’s more legroom here than in United 737-700 first class. Chew on that!
United Embraer 175 first class and economy class seat comparison
Here’s a direct comparison of the first class and economy seats. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I could make do with an economy seat just fine.
SANspotter sitting in United Embraer 175 first class
Picture proof that no, sitting in first class on a United Express E175 won’t make you look (or feel) baller AF.
United Embraer 175 first class armrests and seat pockets
Armrests and seat pockets! Criticize me all you want for spending so much of my precious little time here on Planet Earth creating these super nerdy airline reviews, but you’re the one who made the conscious decision to follow along.
United Embraer 175 first class overhead bins
Don’t worry – assuming that you’re one of the first on the plane (or your flight isn’t delayed 3 hours resulting in having the entire aircraft yourself), there will be plenty of space in the overhead bins to stow your carry-on. They’re larger than most people realize.
United Embraer 175 first class passengers
“Why the hell did the guy next to me choose to stick with this flight?” (What we were both obviously thinking as while waiting to push off the gate)
SANspotter reviewing United Embraer 175 first class
I have no idea what his excuse was, but I’m only here to see how this compares to Delta Embraer 175 first class. I live an exciting life, don’t I?

The departure out of San Diego

The main benefit of being delayed three hours was that we avoided the 6:30 AM rush. The San Diego Airport doesn’t open for departures until 6:30 AM, and it’s essentially gridlock as many airlines have multiple flights going out to multiple destinations at that time. It’s nuts. But we didn’t have to deal with any of that this morning!

Gate 43 jet bridge San Diego airport
It was hard to tell from where I was sitting, but I would imagine that the sound of the jet bridge detaching from the aircraft sounded like pulling a rubber boot out of thick mud. This plane has certainly been sitting here long enough.
United Embraer 175 pushing off the gate San Diego airport
You know that “better late than never” saying? It doesn’t apply to 25 minute flights that have been delayed 3 hours.
United Embraer 175 taxiing to runway San Diego airport
Thank God we made it out of here before the 10:30 AM LAX flight.
United Embraer 175 first class cabin view from seat 4A
Still, despite all my complaining, this is so much better than the old United Express Embraer 120 experience. I kinda like not losing any fillings (from all the buzzing) when flying between San Diego and Los Angeles!
United Embraer 175 lining up for runway 27 San Diego airport
We’re so late that it wouldn’t surprise me if I control tower told the pilots to “get the f*** outta heeeere” (in a thick Brooklyn accent) instead of the usual “cleared for takeoff” message.
All new terminal 1 construction San Diego airport
The new Terminal 1 build is looking great BTW!
United Embraer 175 takeoff into marine layer San Diego airport
Into the soup we go…
United Embraer 175 takeoff above the clouds san Diego
Nice! I wasn’t expecting to see clear blue sky today since these San Diego to Los Angeles flights don’t normally climb higher than 10,000 feet. I also wasn’t expecting to be delayed 3 hours, but whatever.

In-flight entertainment

Believe it or not, there is both streaming entertainment *and* Wi-Fi on the United Express Embraer 175 (in all classes of service). Wi-Fi wasn’t available on our flight due to the fact that we barely got above 10,000 feet, but it is available for most flights. Messaging (and a fall catalog of movies and TV shows) is free – but you will have to pay for Internet connectivity.

United Embraer 175 first class Internet connectivity screen
Hmm. The banner at the top of the screen claims that inflight internet is not available. However, the content of the screen itself is encouraging me to connect. What’s the move here?
United Embraer 175 first class in-flight entertainment home screen
You’ve got to be kidding me! I wasn’t expecting to see the full menu of in-flight connectivity and entertainment on a flight as short as this. Whether or not any of this actually works is another story…
Watching movies in united express E175 first class
It actually works! It’s super fast too (with no buffering), but it better be considering that I’m one of only four passengers on this airplane this morning. And I’d be willing to bet anything that I’m not the only one watching Anchorman.
SANspotter watching in-flight entertainment in united express E175 first class
Thinking back on it, this was easily the highlight of my entire day. I had no idea that the in-flight entertainment on these stupid little airplanes was this robust!

Snacks and drinks

You’re doing it wrong if you expect to be served substantial snacks and drinks on any United Express flight (not only the Embraer 175). And on flights as short as this one? Ha! We did get a full size bottle of water, but the snack basket never made an appearance.

United Embraer 175 First Class drinks
Did I need a full bottle of water on a short 25 minute flight from SAN to LAX? Hell no. Did I appreciate it? Heck yeah I did (even though I had to pee like a racehorse upon arrival).

Seat comfort

The main benefit of these first class seats is the extremely generous leg room (37”). Seat width (20”) isn’t much to get excited about, and those of you with wider hips may not find them to be all that comfortable. And of course padding is minimal. Stuffing first class seats into a tiny regional jet such as this requires some sacrifices.

Crossed legs in United Embraer 175 First Class
Ahhh, this is the life. I’ve watched a bit of Anchorman, there’s enough room cross my legs without feeling cramped, and I’m feeling very well hydrated. This is fun (and comfortable)!
Stretching out in united express E175 first class
Then again, all the bad things I’ve ever said about the Embraer 175 in the past are still valid. The seats are narrow, the general seating layout is too dense for my liking, and (gosh darn it) I hate the way the engines sound like a tired vacuum cleaner.
SANspotter sleeping in United Embraer 175 First Class
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if the flight is full, the E175 ain’t no fun. On an empty flight like this however, I’m willing to cut it some slack.
United Embraer 175 empty flight
I’m not even kidding about how empty this flight was!
United Embraer 175 First Class overhead air vents
As I close out this section on cabin comfort, I’d like to extend a virtual high five to the engineer who designed these overhead air vents. The velocity of fresh air was just about perfect. Can we promote that person to the United scheduling department?

The arrival into LAX

For an airport that receives an endless stream of A350s and 777s all day long (from all over the world), I can tell you from first-hand experience that arriving on a tiny little E175 just doesn’t feel right. $20 says there was not a single aviation photographer up on Imperial Hill that photographed our arrival that morning. And I don’t blame them.

United Embraer 175 engine and wing view from seat 4a
Hold onto your butts. It’s about to get bumpy!
View of Los Angeles 110/105 interchange from the air
Seeing the 110/105 interchange from the air like this gives me all new appreciation for Ponch and Jon (and all the bulls**t they had to put up with on a daily basis). LA is gnarly in spots.
View of Los Angeles 405/105 interchange from the air
The 405/105 interchange looks a little friendlier. Fun fact: I landed an Embraer 175 there in Flight Simulator once (on purpose). Casualties were minimal, and overall, I’d say it was a smashing success!
United Embraer 175 landing on runway 25L LAX
Welcome to LAX!
First class cabin upon landing at LAX
All is good here in the first class cabin after that beautiful landing on runway 25L just now. Just thought you’d like to know.
Terminals 6 and 7 LAX
A few pics of the action here at LAX as we taxi over to Terminal 8. And what good would a series of “action” pics be without a close up of a Boeing 787 anus?
United 737-900 parked at terminal 8 LAX
United Express uses Terminal 8 at LAX (as long as the mainline 737-900s are willing to share).
Gate 85 jet bridge terminal 8 LAX
Anyone reading this and thinking “wow, gate 85 seems like it would be a long walk to baggage claim” would be absolutely correct. United Express doesn’t exactly get the most ideal gate space here at LAX.
United Embraer 175 First Class cabin view from rear
See? That wasn’t so bad. Better than a colonoscopy (for sure), but not quite as good as United A320 first class.
United express jet bridge LAX
The walk of shame up the jet bridge after arriving 3 hours late on a 25 minute flight. At least we had Anchorman (and wicked good air vents) to distract us.

Pros and cons of United Express E175 first class

I’d like to think that most people find themselves in one of these first class seats immediately before or after an amazing international first or business class experience. Nobody goes out of their way to make the Embraer 175 the highlight of their trip. At least they shouldn’t be doing that.

Anyway, I’m of the opinion that this is a decent first class seat which is best for beginning or ending an amazing journey. Think of it as an appetizer (or a palate cleanser) for other (better) first class experiences.


  • I’m a huge fan of the 1-2 seating configuration. Single seats FTW!
  • Legroom is phenomenal for such a tiny airplane. It’s better than what you find on most mainline aircraft.
  • The full catalog of streaming in-flight entertainment is impressive. This is not something that all airlines provide in regional first class.


  • Seat comfort will depend on how much junk you have in your trunk. They’re narrow!
  • Snacks and drinks are extremely limited, so bring your own.

Comments (8)

  1. Luca

    October 8, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 8, 2023
  2. Jason B

    October 10, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 10, 2023
  3. JNSD

    October 12, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 12, 2023
  4. Peter

    October 13, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 14, 2023

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