Air Canada to use slower turboprop on Victoria-Calgary flights

Starting next spring, passengers flying between Victoria and Calgary with Air Canada will face a slightly longer flight, but at least they'll be jetting over the Rockies in more comfort, according to the air carrier.

Air Canada has announced it's replacing the existing 50-seat CRJ aircraft, which fly between Victoria and Calgary, with 74-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 NextGen turboprop aircraft as part of a rejuvenation of its Western Canadian fleet.

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"These are new, comfortable aircraft. They are ultra-quiet, very roomy inside with nice big overhead bins and all-leather seats," said Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah.

But because the new aircraft fly at a lower altitude, Mah said they will take longer to reach their destination.

The new planes, which will start service between Victoria and Calgary in March, fly at a cruising altitude of 7,620 metres (25,000 feet) at 667 kilometres per hour. The CRJ aircraft they are replacing cruise at 10,670 metres (35,000 feet) and 780 km/h.

That will mean adding five minutes to the flight, which currently takes one hour and 20 minutes to Calgary, and one hour and 35 minutes from Calgary to Victoria.

But Victoria Airport Authority CEO Geoff Dickson said passengers "will be delighted" with the new aircraft regardless of flight duration. "The Q400 is one of my personal favourite aircraft. It's really efficient, really quiet and really comfortable," he said. "And it should come as no surprise you're seeing the Q400 gaining prominence in Canada."

Earlier this year, Westjet announced it had placed an order with Bombardier for 20 of the Q400 aircraft and an option for 25 more for a regional service called Encore slated to start in the second half of next year.

Dickson said the added capacity provided by Air Canada's choice of plane on the Victoria-Calgary route is welcomed. "It's a very popular route. It's a big market and well served."

Mah said there will be two Q400 aircraft put on the route and no change to the number of flights daily - three or four, depending on the time of year.

Air Canada also announced an addiitonal daily flight between Nanaimo airport and Vancouver, giving the Harbour City seven a day.

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