I was heading back from Raleigh to New York on a quick weekend trip and booked the last nonstop flight from Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to New York (JFK) for the night to maximize my day in the area. To my surprise, I cleared an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Upgrade for the first time!

Complimentary American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Upgrade:

I had a Basic Economy ticket, but I am an Advantage Gold Member (lowest elite member). Even with Basic Economy, I was able to pick a preferred seat at booking for myself and my companion, have a free checked bag, was eligible to choose a Main Cabin Extra at check-in, and was also eligible for First Class upgrades. The only thing was that the ticket wasn’t refundable/changeable.

A few hours before check-in opened for my flight (T-24), I noticed there were still 8 first-class seats for sale, and only 4 seats in Main Cabin Extra (MCE) were taken. This made me have a really good feeling about getting upgraded, as the lack of occupied seats in MCE means there were probably not a lot of elites on this flight. Currently, all AAdvantage elite members get unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades for you and 1 companion. For Gold members like myself, upgrades are confirmed before departure as early as 24 hours.

Sure enough, 5 minutes after check-in opened, I got an email stating “Your complimentary upgrade is confirmed.” Woo hoo! And no, it’s not like Delta where they celebrate “upgrading” you to Comfort Plus. It was a true upgrade to First Class. An AAdvantage Gold Upgrade is possible!

a blue and white sign with white text

The best email to open!

I went on the app to choose seats, and it looked like all 8 seats were still available. Since I was traveling with just one companion, they were upgraded as well. We decided on 2 of the single-aisle/window seats on the E175.

I’ve never flown on the E175 in First on American Airlines (Eagle), but I have on Alaska Airlines and United Airlines (Express). The layouts are practically identical.

Flight Details:

American Eagle Flight 4262 Operated by Republic Airlines
Raleigh Durham (RDU) to New York (JFK)
Aircraft: Embraer 175
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 2A

At the Airport:

We got to Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU) from the Casso Hotel in downtown Raleigh via Uber which took only about 25 minutes around 7 PM.

I love RDU as it’s not too big and nice/clean. There was no line for TSA PreCheck, although we took a while at TSA due to our souvenir candles. Just to provide a tip, candles in carry-ons do trigger extra scrutiny at TSA and they will have to swab the candles. So, if you plan to bring them through carry-ons, make them easily accessible for the TSA agent to access them.

people in an airport

American Airlines RDU Check-In Area

Once we cleared security with all of our souvenir candles, we had about 20 minutes before our flight’s scheduled boarding time and decided to just hang out near our gate.

Interestingly to me, the flight before us was scheduled to arrive at 7:55 PM, and our departure was scheduled for 8:25 PM. I feel like a 30-minute turn around seems tight. It’s funny because the app said boarding was at 8:00 PM, leaving 5 minutes to fully unload and somewhat clean the plane.

But, the flight before us ended up arriving 15 minutes early. So, we started boarding at 8 PM.

The Aircraft:

Our American Eagle Embraer 175 was 9 years old. It has 4 rows of First Class in a 1-2 configuration for a total of 12 seats, and there were 20 Main Cabin Extra Seats and 44 Main Cabin Seats.

It is one of my favorite aircraft for short hops, and I love the 1-2 configuration in First Class, and 2-2 in Economy. Also, there is much more space both in width and headspace than similar regional planes like the CRJ-900 which feel super cramped. Plus, the ride on the E175 is smoother than the CRJ-900.

The Seat:

The American Eagle First Class seat on the E175 is stated to have 37 inches of pitch and a width of 19.9 inches. The seat itself felt a bit outdated, but everything was relatively clean and in decent condition.

AAdvantage Gold Upgrade

American Eagle Embraer 175 Seat 2A

There is a small cup holder towards the window. And the tray table comes out from the armrest, with a half-and-full setting.

AAdvantage Gold Upgrade

E175 Small Cupholder

AAdvantage Gold Upgrade

E175 Tray Table

To the bottom left of the seat, is a power plug and USB outlet.

There’s no seat-back in-flight entertainment, but there is Wi-Fi and the ability to stream content to your device. Service was provided by Intelsat. A flight pass was $10, or free for T-Mobile customers. Unlike my inbound flight, the Wi-Fi actually worked which was nice. But, the speeds were quite slow, and I wasn’t really able to surf the web much, but at least I could send out iMessages.

a person sitting in an airplane

E175 Cabin

The Flight:

Boarding started 25 minutes before departure. Once we were situated, there wasn’t an offering of a pre-departure beverage, but the flight attendant did bring out some water in plastic cups. The boarding door closed 5 minutes before our scheduled departure, and we left the gate right at our scheduled departure time.

The flight was scheduled for 1 hour and 47 minutes, and the pilot said our flight would be a little bit over an hour in the air.

Once we reached cruising altitude, drink orders were taken, and we were given a mixed nuts snack bag containing almonds, cashews, pecans, and pistachios. I was a bit surprised that we were served in plastic cups. I noticed on the way to Raleigh we were on American mainline with the A319 and the first class had glassware. Perhaps this is because we were on American Eagle by Republic Airways.

AAdvantage Gold Upgrade

Ginger Ale and Mixed Nuts

The flight went by really quickly, and next thing you know we were landing in New York. We ended up touching down 25 minutes before our scheduled arrival and got off the plane 10 minutes early.


The Verdict:

Overall, it was a comfortable short hop from Raleigh-Durham to New York on the American Eagle First Class aboard the E175. I was happy I cleared an AAdvantage Gold Upgrade along with my travel companion with no status.


Have you flown on American Eagle First Class aboard the E175? And have you gotten an AAdvantage Gold Upgrade recently (or with higher status levels?) Share below!




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