RAA 2011: Bombardier plans to deliver two-class Q400 this summer

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Canadian airframer Bombardier has revealed plans to deliver the first dual-class Q400 turboprop to an existing customer this summer.

The disclosure follows a decision by all the US major carriers to introduce two-class products on their 70 and 90-seat aircraft operated by their regional partners.

Bombardier senior vice-president of aircraft programmes Eric Martel disclosed the airframer's plans during a briefing at the RAA annual convention on 18 May in Nashville, Tennessee.

Martel stated the Q400 will feature 64 economy seats and seven in first class in a three abreast layout.

Speaking to ATI and Flightglobal, Martel explained the aircraft is being delivered to an existing Q400 customer, and all the deliveries in the specific order would feature the dual class configuration. He also stated Bombardier plans to work with the operator to retrofit Q400s with a new first class.

Bombardier declined to disclose the customer pegged to receive the first two-class Q400, but United-Continental Holdings has some interest offering premium seats on its Q400s.

Pinnacle subsidiary Colgan Air currently operates 29 Q400s for United-Continental, with the 30th aircraft scheduled for delivery in August, said Pinnacle senior vice-president Buddy Casey said during a separate briefing at the convention.

Casey stated a two-class Q400 operation at United-Continental is "in the works", and said Colgan would likely start retrofitting its fleet next year.

Bombardier's rival ATR also offers a two-class configuration for its 70-seat ATR 72-600. Previously ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato said the two-class configuration and a forward passenger door on the aircraft is what ATR has done "to be prepared for the North American market".

Bombardier vice-president of marketing Philippe Poustissou said the dual-class Q400 configuration creates new revenue opportunities for airlines to help improve their yields.