Flying to Washington, D.C., will become faster and more comfortable this fall.
Atlantic Coast Airlines, which runs the United Express connection between Buffalo and Dulles International Airport outside Washington, announced it will upgrade the aircraft for four of its seven daily round-trip flights to Dulles.
Starting Oct. 31, a 50-seat Canadair regional jet will replace the 19-seat and 29-seat propeller planes on the 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. flights out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the airline said.
The regional jet's cruising speed of 530 mph is almost double the 19-seat turboprop's 282-mph speed, said Atlantic Coast spokesman Rick DeLisi.
"The regional jet is the future of regional aviation in this country," DeLisi said.
Passengers will not be charged more to travel on the new aircraft, he said.
The United Express 29-seat flights are often sold out, so the 50-seat regional jets will enable more people to book flights during peak travel times, DeLisi said.
Although the regional jets are more expensive to purchase -- about $20 million for each aircraft -- the regional jet's additional seats make it economical to fly, he said.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials, who had pressed Atlantic Coast executives for the change, called the announcement positive for the airport.
"The load factors were high on that route, and we felt there was a demand for service," said Lawrence M. Meckler, the NFTA's executive director. "We asked if they could substitute regional jets to allow for more seats and give people more choices."
Local travel agents said most travelers dislike the smaller planes, which are noisy and bouncy, with short headroom and limited space.
"We can understand why some people would prefer not to fly on as long a flight to Dulles on a turboprop plane," DeLisi said. "We're pleased to make this upgrade. We wish it could have happened sooner."