Smaller planes, bigger gains

Construction at Canada's Prince George Airport prompted WestJet to wet lease smaller aircraft.

The Canadian carrier normally flies 100-seat plus next generation Boeing 737 aircraft between Prince George and Vancouver. Because the main runway will be closed for centreline lighting installation next month, WestJet will fly 37- and 50-passenger seat Dash 8 aircraft from Hawkair Aviation.

Dash 8s will add about 20 minutes to the thrice daily flights, WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer tells me in an e-mail.

WestJet and others will use a 5,500 ft. (1,676 m) east-west runway during construction instead of the 7,400 ft. north-south runway.

Regional operator Air Canada Jazz also flies Dash 8s on Vancouver-bound flights. However, that airline will feel less of an impact because it flies regional jets and Dash 8s to the airport, Prince George Airport general manager Stieg Hoeg tells me.

Runway closure is part of the airport's plans to extend the north-south runway to 11,400 ft. in an attempt to diversify revenue by attracting cargo operators flying on crowded Asia-North America routes, Hoeg says.

For airlines flying from the Pearl River Delta to the southern USA, stopping at Prince George Airport offers some operating efficiency and fuel savings, Hoeg explains.

While no cargo carriers have signed on with the airport yet, a lot of airlines are looking for ways to cut fuel costs, he says.

In July, Canada's office of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities approved the airport's participation in the international air cargo transshipment program.

The program enables the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to authorize foreign carriers to ship cargo through the airport to third countries, even if such rights are not provided for in Canada's bilateral air transport agreements.

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