Once again, JetBlue ( JBLU) is ahead of the trend in the airline industry -- this time because of its aircraft.

In November 2005, JetBlue began flying the Embraer 190, or E190. The model, designed and manufactured by Brazil-based Embraer ( ERJ), could alter the course of regional jet flying because it provides not only 100-seat capacity but also a once-unavailable quality: comfort. JetBlue flies the plane on two dozen routes from New York's Kennedy and Boston's Logan airports.

"Absolutely it's comfortable," said JetBlue CEO David Neeleman, in an interview. "If you're flying on JetBlue E190s , you have a comfortable, wide seat, the best legroom, big windows and no middle seats." JetBlue's pitch measures 32 inches in front of the exit row and 33 inches behind it.

In 2003, Neeleman said, the carrier sought a smaller aircraft to complement its fleet of 156-seat Airbus A320s. The airline looked at Bombardier's Canadair jets, but "what we saw from Bombardier was the same old thing with a different length," he said. "It just wasn't JetBlue, as far as the customer experience."

"So we went to Embraer and we said, 'Guys, can we do this, and make sure we get the right kind of deal?' and we got a plane built from the ground up, not just a business jet made into a customer jet." Embraer's E-Jet family also includes a 70-seater, but, Neeleman said, "If you can have 100 seats, why take 70? They both have two pilots and two flight attendants." JetBlue has ordered 101 E190s, with options for 100 more.

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