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US AIRWAYS AFFILIATE TO FLY JETS TO D.C.

US Airways Express will introduce direct jet service on two of its three daily flights from Buffalo to Washington, D.C., starting in July.

Chautauqua Airlines, which provides service under the US Airways Express banner in this region, will use 50-seat regional jets on the airline's 6:35 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. flights between Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Reagan International Airport starting July 7. The daily 5:55 p.m. nonstop flight to the nation's capital will continue to use a 37-seat Dehavilland Dash 8 turboprop plane.

US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said the change to the larger, speedier aircraft was a "business decision" on the part of its affiliate Chautauqua Airlines.

"It's a business decision based on demand for service between Buffalo and Washington, D.C.," he said.

Similar demand has led Chautauqua to put regional jets on three of its four daily US Airways Express flights between Albany and Washington as well.

Though the US Airways affiliate started booking passengers on the jet flights more than a week ago, the upgrade was not made public until Friday.

C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said it's a positive development for area fliers.

"Anything that makes it more convenient to fly and makes destinations more accessible is certainly good news for Buffalo Niagara International Airport," he said.

The addition of regional jets to US Airways Express flights is a sign of things to come from US Airways later this year. Earlier this week, the airline announced it was buying at least 170, and possibly as many as 550, regional jets from Canada's Bombardier Aerospace and Brazil-based Embraer.

The new aircraft will be the linchpin of US Airways' restructuring plan, under which it will replace its unpopular turboprop planes with regional jets on many shorter routes. The new jets also will take the place of larger Boeing 737s and Airbus 319s on long-distance routes.

The fresh fleet of regional jets is planned for an October delivery and will start showing up on as-yet-undetermined US Airways routes in November.

The change is aimed at making US Airways more competitive against such airlines as American, Delta and Continental, which each fly two to four times as many regional jets as US Airways currently does.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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