The "faster, larger and more comfortable" Air Chathams SAAB 340 is set to service Whakatāne, with the first flights beginning on November 29.

With demand continuing to grow for air travel to and from the region, the SAAB can cater for up to 34 passengers, almost doubling the existing Metroliner service at 19 seats.

Air Chathams said in a statement the SAAB was faster, larger and more comfortable than the Metroliner and would be used for peak-demand services initially.

Passengers on Friday afternoon flights from Auckland at 3.15pm and 6.35pm, as well as those travelling from Whakatāne at 4.45pm, will fly in the larger SAAB 340.

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The SAAB 340 in flight. Photo / Supplied
The SAAB 340 in flight. Photo / Supplied

Higher levels of customer service will be provided, with a flight attendant on board serving tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits as they do on other regional flights. The SAAB 340 also has toilet facilities on board, unlike the smaller Metroliner.

It will also operate the Saturday 8am departure to Auckland, Sunday flights from Auckland to Whakatāne departing at 11am and 6.15pm, Whakatāne to Auckland at 4.45pm on Saturday and the early Monday morning flight to Auckland at 6.45am.

While the timing is perfect for the upcoming summer holiday period, Air Chathams will monitor and assess ongoing demand.

Air Chathams general manager Duane Emeny said the company was really excited to begin bringing the SAAB to Whakatāne.

The SAAB 340 cabin. Photo / Supplied
The SAAB 340 cabin. Photo / Supplied

"We know our regular fliers will appreciate the extra comforts provided, and this will give us some flexibility across the service where other flights exceed the Metroliner capacity. We hope to be able to offer the SAAB service more permanently in the future."

Whakatāne District Mayor Judy Turner said the SAAB service would help boost visitor numbers to the region just in time for the busy summer season.

"This is great news for our district, and will be beneficial for locals and visitors alike. We're grateful that our investment into the airport is being supported by Air Chathams, and the SAAB service is a great example of the airline's commitment to the Whakatāne district."