updated 8/28/2008 4:06:02 PM ET 2008-08-28T20:06:02

Air Canada's regional carrier Jazz is removing life vests from all its planes to save weight and fuel.

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Jazz spokeswoman Manon Stuart said Thursday that government regulations set by Transport Canada allow airlines to use floatation devices instead of life vests provided the planes remain within 50 nautical miles of shore.

Safety cards in the seat pockets of Jazz aircraft now direct passengers to use the seat cushions as floatation devices.

"The nature of our operations doesn't require that we carry both," Stuart said.

Stuart said Jazz is a transcontinental carrier that doesn't fly over the ocean.

Jazz planes do fly over the Great Lakes and along the Eastern seaboard from Halifax to Boston and New York.

Stuart said all of Jazz's flights operate within 50 nautical miles of shore. She said they operate 880 flights daily to 85 destinations in North America and that the number of flights operating over water are minimal.

A commercial-style life vest weighs roughly a half-kilogram (1.1 pound), meaning 25 kilograms (55 pounds) would be saved by removing them from a Dash-8 aircraft with 50 seats, the most common aircraft the company uses.

"Transport Canada was satisfied that we met the regulation, and they approved the change," Stuart said.

Stuart has said that with the high cost of fuel, the airline is looking at everything.

Woody French, mayor of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, called it a cheap move. French has been advocating for an airline passenger bill of rights.

"A lot of these airlines say 'Well, our passengers are our main concern.' That's a bit of a misnomer," French said. "We're a distant second. Profits are the first."

French is sending a letter of protest to Canada's transport minister, saying that the elimination of the life vests will result in minimal fuel savings.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette said Jazz was going "above and beyond" the regulations before.

"It was extra, above and beyond what was required under the Canadian aviation regulations," she said.

Alison Duquette, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration based in Washington, said U.S. federal aviation regulations say that "if you are an airline and you fly an airplane over a body of water, you have to have a life preserver or an approved floatation means."

Duquette said that a seat cushion meant as a floatation device could satisfy that requirement. She said that she was not aware of any U.S. airlines getting rid of life vests on their airplanes to help with weight issues.

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