Sunday, 30 September 2018

First Air and Canadian North to merge

It was confirmed last week that First Air and Canadian North are to merge, subject to government regulatory approvals. If all goes well, the two will complete the merger before the end of this year in a move that has been touted as a way to provide the best possible air services across the Arctic. 

Should regulators give the go-ahead, the proposed Pan-Arctic airline will ditch the iconic and immediately internationally recognisable brand of 'First Air' and simply be known as "Canadian North". Confusingly, the aircraft will feature the new First Air livery, including its Inukshuk logo as shown above and the company plans to be based and headquartered in Ottawa. 

There will be changes to routes and schedules, although these have not been released yet and should the merger go ahead, the airlines have committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to schedules and commercial flights on an ongoing basis.

The plan for the new wholly Inuit-owned airline is to offer more flights to more destinations and boost Arctic tourism in the communities it serves by increasing demand for tourist-related businesses and services. Although the news of the proposed merger has caused one international inbound travel firm to suspend sales of 2019 tour programme involving First Air flights until a clearer picture is known.

"The combined airline will have more opportunity to generate economic spinoffs in our communities," said Charlie Watt Sr., Makivik President. "This agreement solidifies our shared vision for a Pan-Arctic Airline Company which will eventually offer a better circumpolar service than ever before."

"We are proud of Canadian North's track record of providing safe, stable air service to customers in the North," said Patrick Gruben, Chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation (IDC). "This exciting milestone in our partnership with Makivik represents a joint commitment to continue providing air service excellence, a most vital lifeline, to Northerners across the Arctic region."

In the meantime, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing passengers with access to reliable air travel services across the Arctic.  First Air flies a fleet or 13 ATR42 turboprop aircraft and 4 Boeing 737 jets. Canadian North has a mixed older fleet of 19 aircraft, including a number of Boeing 737-200 classic combi planes, some of which according to are that are over 38 years of age.  

There has been no confirmation as of yet on how many people would lose their jobs as a result of the merger, however, according to local sources, as many as 50 staff are to go.   

(photos First Air / Canadian North)