If you want to hear most business travelers complain, ask them about those small regional jets.
The seats are often cramped, the ceilings are low, and the overhead bins are barely big enough for a purse.
But Fort Worth-based American Eagle Airlines is trying to change those impressions with a cabin configuration aimed at increased comfort -- and at business travelers willing to pay a hefty price for more space.
For the first time, Eagle is adding first-class cabins to a total of 47 planes.
Twenty-two are brand-new Canadair Regional Jets that have a more updated open feel -- even in coach. The ceilings are higher, the lighting is brighter, and the overhead bins are designed to give a feeling of more headroom. For the average passenger, it means no more ducking down as you walk through the aisle.
Airline industry observers say Eagle needed to add first-class cabins to compete.
"If they don't catch up, they're going to lose those high-flying business travelers," said Tom Parsons, CEO of BestFares.com.
If the new premium seats can be sold, it could have a major impact on the commuter airline's bottom line. A recent check showed first class seats on the new Eagle jets are selling for as much as $1,000 more than coach seats on some routes.
The airline said it's already paying off.
"Our first class is booked and has been booked since we started selling the service since July 2," said American Eagle spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.
From Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the new planes will be used on routes with a higher concentration of business travelers, including flights to Little Rock, Ark., Northwest Arkansas Airport near Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s headquarters and flights to Milwaukee.