Air Canada Express will start flying the Bombardier Q400 between Prince George and Vancouver this May, raising the number of seats available on a daily basis by 23 per cent in the process.
The turboprop can carry up to 74 passengers, 24 more than the Dash 8-300 currently in use. And while the number of flights per day will be reduced from six to five, that still adds up to 70 more seats per day than under the current configuration.
Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said the plane is already in use on some of the airline's Atlantic Canada routes "and customers really like the ultra-quiet environment and roomy overhead bins that this aircraft has."
Despite the loss of one flight per day, Mah said "all flights are scheduled to maximize the opportunities" to catch subsequent flights out of Vancouver.
Prince George-Vancouver was among the 15 routes where Air Canada said Friday the Q400 will be deployed starting this spring and summer. The planes are now being used on four routes in the regional carrier's Western Canada service.
Air Canada's main competitor, Westjet, has also placed an order for 20 Q400s and has an option to buy another 25 for its fledgling Encore fleet, company's spokesman Robert Palmer said in an e-mail. An announcement will be made this month on where they will fly, he added.
Westjet currently flies 136-seat Boeing 737s on its Prince George-Vancouver route. At six flights per day, that adds up to 816 seats.
Prince George Airport Authority CEO John Gibson welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement the Q400 is "extremely quiet, spacious and is much faster than a Dash 8."
The Q400's cruising speed is 667 km/h compared to the Dash 8's 531 km/h.
Airport spokeswoman Lindsay Cotter said the move comes after many flights in 2012 reached their capacity, "or if there were only a few seats left, the ticket price was super expensive."
Asked about reviving daily service to Edmonton or Calgary, Cotter said that campaign is ongoing.
"It's definitely high on our priority list and it's the number one comment and phrase we hear out in the community," Cotter said. "So we'll continue to press for it."