LONG BEACH, Calif. -- A 70-seat CRJ900 Bombardier regional jet delivered to Delta last week will be the first to feature Bombardier's new cabin design called Atmosphere. 

Among the features of Atmosphere cabins are larger overhead bins, a larger first-class lavatory and a wider entrance area than previous iterations of the CRJ900.

"We listened to what our passengers and customers are asking for," Bombardier vice president of marketing Patrick Baudis said during a press briefing at the Regional Airline Association Annual Convention on Monday. 

Bombardier is displaying a partial mock-up of the Atmosphere interior on the convention floor. Bombardier made the entry 6 inches wider with a repositioned entranceway and a new galley design. 

Within the first-class cabin, the small overhead bins that line the right side of earlier CRJ900 cabin iterations have been removed, providing 4.5 extra inches of shoulder space. Bins on the left side of the first-class cabin have been enlarged by 50%, enabling them to accommodate three oversized carry-on bags wheels first, said Jean-Francois Guay, director of the CRJ program. Guay said that passengers won't miss the small right-side bins because they were too small to be useful. 

In the economy cabin, overhead bin doors have been expanded from 9.5 inches to 11 inches in height. 

The economy lavatory in Atmosphere cabins will be the same size as lavatories in older-generation CRJ900s. But the first-class lavatory is 60% larger by volume, partly because it is 3 inches taller, having been constructed closer to the middle of the plane. The Atmosphere first-class lavatory is the only one on a regional jet designed to allow for a handicapped passenger to transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet with the door closed, Bombardier says. 

Several airlines are trending toward smaller lavatories, especially on single-aisle mainline jets like the Boeing 737 Max and the Airbus A320. But Guay said that U.S. carriers don't have much incentive to save space on the CRJ900. That's because the aircraft is built to carry as many as 90 passengers, but under labor agreements designed to protect mainline pilots from losing out to lower-paid regional pilots, the major U.S. carriers aren't allowed to use regional aircraft with more than 76 seats.

By 2020, Delta is slated to take delivery of 20 CRJ900s with the Atmosphere interior. Regional carrier SkyWest will operate the aircraft under the Delta Connection brand.  

American Airlines has ordered 15 CRJ900s in a 76-seat configuration. AA regional subsidiary PSA Airlines will fly the planes under the American Eagle brand.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI