First Air and Canadian North finalize their merger agreement, First Air name to disappear

The two airlines have made this joint announcement:

First Air and Canadian North are pleased to announce that their respective owners, Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, have completed the transaction that will enable them to begin merging their operations into a strong and unified airline that will provide safe and sustainable air service to Northern customers and charter clients under the name ‘Canadian North’.

As Northern airlines that are dedicated to the well-being of the communities they serve, First Air and Canadian North have shared the same vital mission – to bridge vast distances, bring people together and deliver important goods – always with friendly and helpful customer service. The highly inefficient status quo of two airlines operating overlapping flight schedules with aircraft capacity that has far exceeded demand on most routes has contributed to higher airfares and cargo rates while impeding their ability to invest in improving their operations. The purpose of this merger is to create an airline that will be able to safely and efficiently serve the North for generations to come, with the ability to continually grow and evolve to meet changing market needs. Safe operations will continue to be the number one priority throughout this integration and beyond.

Because of the complex nature of the airline industry and the many essential services that First Air and Canadian North provide, this integration is expected to take 18 to 24 months, with a tremendous amount of planning, coordination and hard work to be completed within distinct phases. During the initial stages, First Air and Canadian North will continue to serve customers under two separate brands. Scheduled services customers will continue to book, fly and ship cargo with either airline, and charters clients, partners and vendors will also continue to work with the team members and departments they are familiar with.

Looking Ahead

  • A major priority will be to develop a combined flight schedule that will enable customers of both airlines to book any flight operated by First Air or Canadian North. This schedule will be released later this year, several months before it takes effect. Communities will continue to receive passenger and cargo capacity that fully meets their needs, with competitive passenger and cargo rates.
  • Canadian North’s popular Aurora Rewards loyalty program will be expanded to all scheduled flights operated by First Air, so that customers of both airlines have the ability to earn Aurora Rewards points and Aeroplan Miles that can be redeemed for free flights.
  • A unified ‘Canadian North’ brand will begin to roll out, featuring the First Air’s distinctive Inukshuk logo and red and white color palette. This brand will be seen in more and more places as time progresses, including the website, uniforms, counter signage and aircraft livery.
  • Dedicated and hard-working First Air and Canadian North team members will be brought together under the unified Canadian North banner. This will be a gradual process that will be completed hand-in-hand with other milestones such as combining flight reservations systems, fare products, operational processes, fleets and facilities.
  • The merged airline will strive to lead the aviation industry as a top employer, with continued focus on recruiting Inuit and other Indigenous team members for excellent careers within this sector.

“We are embarking on an exciting journey and our destination will be a stronger and more sustainable airline, focused entirely on providing safe and friendly passenger and cargo service to the people, organizations and communities that depend on us,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of First Air who will serve as leader of the merged organization. “We understand that our actions touch many lives, so we will maintain a ‘community-first’ approach throughout this integration, which includes carefully considering the essential needs of our customers when making decisions, communicating clearly and listening for feedback.”

The unified Canadian North will leverage its experience and capabilities to expand other areas of its organization that will also contribute to its overall sustainability, such as its successful Charters division, with additional resources available to serve existing clients and bring in new business. This diversification will enable continued growth and evolution, regardless of economic conditions. The merged airline will also continue to lend its support to important community events and initiatives throughout the North.

Canadian North and its founding companies (Canadian Airlines, Pacific Western Airlines, Transair, Nordair) has proudly served Canada’s North with passenger and cargo services for more than 80 years. Offering scheduled flights to 18 destinations, Canadian North’s close-to 700 employees proudly serve the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, via the southern gateways of Edmonton and Ottawa. Canadian North is also the premier provider of fly-in/fly-out charter services for large resource sector clients requiring safe, efficient and economical air transportation. Charter flights are also offered across North America for sports teams, cruise lines and large groups. Canadian North is a subsidiary of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, representing the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic.

The new Canadian North will serve a combined network of 24 northern communities, from its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the United States and beyond. It will also be the premier provider of air charter services for large resource sector clients requiring dependable, efficient and economical fly-in/fly-out charter services, as well as charter flights across North America for sports teams, cruise lines and large groups.

All photos by the airlines.

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