Category Archives: First Air

First Air and Canadian North to merge into an unified schedule on November 1

First Air and Canadian North, as previously reported, are merging. The Canadian North name will survive, but the red and white First Air livery will become the livery for the merged airline.

Aircraft are now being painted with the new titles.

The two carriers have announced a unified passenger and cargo schedule is now available for booking and will take effect on Friday, November 1, 2019. Together, the merged airline will provide safe, friendly and reliable service to 24 northern communities, from our southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the United States and beyond.

To view this schedule, please click here.

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.

Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Development Group respond to Competition Bureau report on the merger of First Air and Canadian North

The ownership groups of First Air and Canadian North today issued the following statement in response to the Competition Bureau’s report regarding a merger between the airlines:

“While we acknowledge the Competition Bureau’s mandate to provide input to the Minister of Transport for his public interest review of the merger between First Air and Canadian North, its artificially restricted findings in this matter are of limited value and suggest a superficial understanding of the Inuit organizations proposing this solution for sustainable northern transportation.

“Our Inuit communities are surprised and extremely dismayed by the report and it is our sincere hope and expectation that the Minister will pursue his mandate of reconciliation and acknowledge that the very organizations proposing this merger have a constitutional mandate to represent the rights and interests of Nunavik and the Inuvialuit Region.

“The Bureau abandoned its usual practice of considering efficiencies associated with a merger of this nature. By neglecting to consider the overwhelming financial and non-financial benefits to northerners that will be generated, the Bureau’s assessment fails to recognize that a merger is necessary to sustain air travel to the North and relieve the substantial financial burden currently shouldered by Inuit Land Claim Organization (LCO) owners. This process is representative of southern-led institutions’ continued ignorance of northern businesses and we disagree with the Bureau’s decision to ignore the overwhelming and substantial positive impacts this transaction would have for northerners.

“The Bureau’s narrowed focus also ignores the economic realities (i.e., significant inefficiencies due to overlapping routes, insufficient demand and redundant schedules servicing small and sparsely settled remote communities over vast distances) which are driving the parties – who otherwise face the risk of being driven out of business – to do this deal. A merger will allow us to realize operational efficiencies that are needed to bridge the service gap and continue to be financially viable. Contrary to what the Bureau has written in its report, our airlines already face direct competition and the constant possibility of new competitors every day. Our steadfast goal is to provide customers with quality, sustainable air services at competitive prices as a strong, single airline.

“The Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation have been tasked by our Inuit beneficiaries, stakeholders and all Inuit to bridge the gap between northern and southern living conditions. Currently, exorbitantly high costs of living – in part due to the challenging and high-cost nature of operating businesses in the North – result in sub-standard living conditions for our peoples. Before Inuit can be meaningful participants in the national economy, they must be meaningful participants in the northern economy; an efficient Pan-Arctic airline is the only long-term, viable answer that will provide immediate benefits.

Copyright Photo: TMK Photography. 

“Our Inuit-led solution came about through hundreds of hours of discussion among Inuit and northern-elected leaders. The incomplete analysis in the Competition Bureau’s report demonstrates a lack of understanding of the northern reality which disproportionately and negatively impacts Inuit. We are reminded that the federal government has bailed-out southern national carriers, while northern airlines see continual increases in regulation and fees. The Government of Canada must not ignore Inuit autonomy, elected Inuit leaders and LCOs; continuing to do so only sacrifices the short and long-term socio-economic condition of all northerners.

First Air route map:

“Both corporations urge the Minister of Transport to exercise his authority under the Canada Transportation Act to evaluate this merger holistically, cognizant of the long-term needs of northerners and giving appropriate weight to the overwhelmingly positive impacts on certainty and flexibility of service, connectivity, safety, environment, and self-determination of our peoples. We also ask the Minister to take into account that the new airline will act as an economic driver in the circumpolar region as one of the North’s largest private-sector employers. Any meaningful analysis of the merger would consider these significant benefits.

Canadian North route map:

“We will continue working with Transport Canada as it completes its full analysis of the public interest promoted by this merger and considers the important economic, social and environmental factors that the Competition Bureau did not. We are confident that the merger between First Air and Canadian North will emerge as utterly essential to the public interest.

“Upon the completion of Transport Canada’s review and the receipt of all applicable regulatory approvals, we intend to finalize the merger. Until that time, we will continue providing our northern communities with access to safe and reliable air travel services at the financial expense of our Inuit beneficiaries.

New milestone agreement reached to merge First Air and Canadian North

Canadian North Boeing 737-36N C-FGCN (msn 28590) YYZ (TMK Photography). Image: 928273.

Makivik Corporation (Makivik) and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) have announced they have signed a definitive agreement to merge First Air and Canadian North in order to provide the best possible air services across the Arctic.

Following the receipt of government regulatory approvals, Makivik and ICG will proceed to complete the merger. The parties expect to complete the transaction by the end of 2018.

The proposed Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name Canadian North and aircraft will feature the new First Air livery, including its Inukshuk logo.

Headquarters for the proposed airline will be located in Ottawa. The two airlines first announced their intention to merge on July 6, 2018.

Customers of First Air and Canadian North will see continuity in operations while the merger is finalized. The parties are committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to schedules and commercial flights on an ongoing basis.

The new, wholly Inuit-owned airline intends to be an economic driver in the circumpolar region as one of the North’s largest private-sector employers. Offering more flights to more destinations, the new airline hopes to help expand Arctic tourism in the communities it serves by increasing demand for tourist-related businesses and services.

The parties are pleased to announce this merger will result in significant service improvements for their valued customers, including:

  • Improved schedule: Better time-of-day options on certain routes, enabling day trips;
  • Better connectivity: Improved connections for Northern communities;
  • Increased service opportunities: Potential new routes to service more Northern destinations;
  • Existing service maintained: No reduction in flight options as a result of merger
  • Further enhanced safety: Will enable aircraft modernization across the network, as well as specialization in maintenance of Boeing 737 and ATR aircraft; and
  • Expanded charter business: Particularly related to Alberta natural resources and Northern charters, including for tourism.

As dedicated stewards of the Arctic environment, both Makivik and ICG are energized by the positive ecological impact the merged airline will have. The consolidation of duplicate, undercapacity flights, for example, will not only improve business efficiencies, but also significantly reduce GHG emissions and black carbon particulate along those routes.

A Lufthansa Consulting report commissioned by the Government of Nunavut supports the need for more efficiency in Nunavut air transportation services; the parties are confident the merger between First Air and Canadian North will meet these essential needs for all Northerners.

In the meantime, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing Northerners with access to safe, friendly and reliable air travel services across the Arctic.

The First Air brand will be retired.

Top Copyright Photo: Canadian North Boeing 737-36N C-FGCN (msn 28590) YYZ (TMK Photography). Image: 928273.

Canadian North aircraft slide show:

First Air aircraft slide show:

Bottom Copyright Photo: First Air Boeing 737-406 Combi C-FFNE (msn 27233) YUL (Gilbert Hechema). Image: 942730.

Combi - Cargo up front

Route Maps:

Canadian North:

First Air:


First Air and Canadian North agree to merge

Canadian North Boeing 737-36N C-FKCN (msn 28573) YYC (Chris Sands). Image: 932428.

Makivik Corporation (Makivik) and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) on July 6, 2018 announced they have signed an agreement in principle to merge First Air and Canadian North in order to provide the best possible essential air services across the Arctic. Makivik took this initiative to begin the discussion under the new direction of Charlie Watt, Sr.

Following execution of definitive agreements and the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals needed to establish a strong new entity, the proposed Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name “Canadian North” and aircraft will feature new First Air livery, including its Inukshuk logo. Headquarters for the proposed airline will be located in Ottawa. Both Makivik and IDC recognize the value and potential in the North and in the Alberta market and remain committed to supporting and growing the Alberta presence. The parties expect to complete the merger by the end of 2018.

We expect this merger will:

  • Improve Arctic air services by offering customers greater reliability, better on-time service, and fewer interruptions;
  • Further enhance safety by enabling newer aircraft across the network, as well as specialization in maintenance of Boeing 737 and ATR aircraft;

  • Improve sustainability and efficiency of Arctic air services thus enabling us to more effectively meet demand across our vast service areas while addressing challenges related to pilot shortages; and
  • Contribute to Northern and Inuit economic development by creating a wholly Inuit-owned, new airline focused on Canada’s North.

Air service is not a luxury for Northerners; it is a vital lifeline which requires ongoing investment,” said Patrick Gruben, Chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation (IDC). “We are proud of Canadian North’s tremendous success while fulfilling its mandate to provide safe, stable air service to customers in Canada’s Northern regions and we look forward to further improving these services in partnership with Makivik Corporation.”

“The world is changing and we need to adapt to new realities,” said Charlie Watt Sr., Makivik President. “This is one way to assert our sovereignty across the Arctic.”

A report commissioned by the Government of Nunavut supports the need for more efficiency in Nunavut air transportation services; a merger of First Air and Canadian North is the only viable way to both meet and exceed these essential needs for Nunavummiut and all Northerners.

Customers of First Air and Canadian North will not see changes to services, including fares and scheduling, while we work toward achieving regulatory approval and finalizing the merger. Both parties are committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to scheduled and commercial flights on an ongoing basis.

By merging these airlines we look forward to new economic opportunities in Canada and Internationally, and to better air servies for Inuit across the circumpolar region.

In the meantime, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing Northerners with access to safe, friendly and reliable air travel services across the Arctic.

Top Copyright Photo (all others by Canadian North and First Air): Canadian North Boeing 737-36N C-FKCN (msn 28573) YYC (Chris Sands). Image: 932428.

Canadian North aircraft slide show:

First Air aircraft slide show:

Below Copyright Photo: First Air Boeing 737-436 C-FFNM (msn 25839) YYZ (TMK Photography). Image: 942227.

First Air's 2017 new livery

Canadian North route map:

First Air route map:

First Air unveils a new look and logo

First Air on October 12, 2017 revealed a total makeover of its brand after 71 years as Canada’s preeminent northern airline.

Two aircraft in the new livery go into service immediately. The new livery wipes out the previous 2005 livery which featured photo images of the Arctic region on the tails.

The new brand features a modern and unique version of the iconic Arctic symbol: The Inuksuk. This logo is representative of the people and land of the Arctic. In the words of one Inuit Elder consulted during the design process, “We never go anywhere without an Inuksuk showing the way.”

The airline’s new primary colors are red and grey.  Brock Friesen, President and CEO of First Air said “We wanted colors that would showcase our stunning new logo, and that would stand out in the snowy Arctic and at busy southern airports.  What better color than Canadian red?”

In addition, the airline’s tagline is now: “Fly the Arctic”.  To many around the world, Ottawa and Edmonton are the North.  First Air’s operation has an Arctic responsibility attached to it, whether it’s transporting essential food, mail, or medical passengers, or uniting friends and families. There are no roads connecting the Arctic to southern Canada.

Above Photo: Boeing 737-436 C-FFNM (msn 25839) at Iqaluit previously displayed an iceberg on the tail.

Friesen added: “We also want to inspire more tourists to visit this truly exotic destination. The Arctic is a place of wonder and increasingly, tourists from around the world are looking for out-of-the-ordinary travel experiences.”

The First Air brand embraces premium customer service for all passengers, similar to business class on some airlines. Meals, special coffee, warm cookies, and wine, all at no extra charge. Starbucks Coffee was recently added.

The changes don’t stop with the new logo and livery. A new Wifi based entertainment system will soon be launched on jet routes and the website is being upgraded to improve the online booking experience.


First Air is 100% owned by Makivik Corporation.  Its membership is composed of the Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement.

All images by First Air.

First Air:

Route Map:

The new Canadian North and First Air codeshare agreement starts on July 27

Canadian North Inc. (Yellowknife) and First Air (Ottawa) announced in May they had reached an agreement to codeshare on selected flights operated by both airlines in the far north region of Canada. The two carriers had previously planned to merge but later called off the merger. The codeshare agreement was their alternative to a planned merger.

The codeshare agreement will start on July 27 with significant changes for both carriers.

According to both Canadian regional carriers, “Introducing this codeshare will significantly improve flight schedules, provide greater choice for customers and continue to improve the sustainability of our airline. This agreement is less complex than a merger agreement, however many of the benefits envisioned previously in a merger scenario will be realized with it. Unlike a merger though, where a single merged firm sets prices post-merger, under this codeshare agreement each party will continue to independently set prices and compete for business.”

Canadian North continued;

Canadian North logo 2

“Our airline operates in one of the most challenging geographical and economic environments anywhere in the world,” says Canadian North President Steve Hankirk. “With escalating costs, shrinking travel budgets and increasing competition, we must always be looking for new, more efficient ways of offering our scheduled service to northerners. This codeshare agreement is a breakthrough that brings even more choice to our northern customers and ensures our long term sustainability.”

Canadian North northern point of view

Above: Canadian North: “Our northern point of view” (click for full size view).

Canadian North has now published a new flight schedule in its reservation system allowing customers to make reservations through all booking channels. The first codeshare flight will take to the skies in late July. The following are highlights of the enhancements being made to the current flight schedule as a result of the codeshare agreement:

Iqaluit – Ottawa

The flight schedule will be enhanced by separating current flight times,
delivering additional choices for our customers, with early morning and
early afternoon departure times.

Cambridge Bay and the Kitikmeot

Daily Boeing jet flights between Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay will be
implemented, replacing the existing Dash-8 turboprop flights.

Edmonton, Yellowknife and the Mackenzie Valley

Daily jet service up and down the Mackenzie Valley will continue, and a
Monday and Friday non-stop flight will be added between Yellowknife and

A Monday morning flight will be introduced from Yellowknife to Edmonton.

Trans Arctic

Combined service will continue with three days per week service.

Graph of the changes:

Canadian North-First Air Codeshare Graph


More details from Airline Route: CLICK HERE

Top Copyright Photo: Ton Jochems/ Canadian North’s Bombardier (de Havilland Canada) DHC-8-106 Dash 8 C-GRGI (msn 304) taxies at the yellowknife base.

Canadian North aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

First Air aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

First Air logo 2

Bottom Copyright Photo: Ton Jochems/ First Air’s ATR 42-300 C-GKLB (msn 331) with the wolf on the tail is also seen at Yellowknife, a common connecting point for both carriers.

Canadian North current route map (click on the map for the full side view):

Canadian North 7.2015 Route Map

Canadian North Videos: From our partner JustPlanes:

AG Slide Shows


Cargojet and First Air expand their commercial agreement

Cargojet Inc. (Cargojet Airways) (Hamilton), Canada’s domestic premium overnight air cargo network operator, and First Air (Ottawa), the Airline of the North, announced today that they have expanded their commercial co-operation agreement effective July 1, 2015 and extended their Transportation Agreement to June 30, 2025.

Cargojet logo

First Air logo 2

According to both carriers:

This agreement further strengthens the strategic alliance between the two companies, and will allow for seamless air cargo transportation between the 14 major Canadian cities served on Cargojet’s overnight air cargo network as well as the 32 communities served by First Air in Canada’s North.

Above Copyright Photo: Chris Sands/ Cargojet Airways Boeing 767-35E ER (F) C-GUAJ (msn 26063) departs from Calgary.

Cargojet Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

First Air aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

Below Copyright Photo: Tony Storck/ First Air Boeing 737-406 C-FFNC (msn 27232) (Native Hunter) taxies at Yellowknife.

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Summit Air to operate its Avro (BAe) RJ85s on two routes for First Air and to the Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine

Summit Air (Yellowknife) will begin operating its 90-seat Avro (BAe) RJ85s on two routes for First Air (Ottawa). On January 27 the company will begin operating on the Yellowknife – Edmonton route and on February 2 it will begin operating on the Yellowknife – Norman Wells – Inuvik route.

Summit Air logo

On January 20 Summit Air announced the purchase of a second Avro RJ85 jet to meet market demand for remote destination crew movements and ACMI (aircraft, crew maintenance and insurance) contracts.

Summit Air is part of the Ledcor Group of Companies and operates a fleet of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft throughout Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest and Yukon Territories.

According to the company release, “The Avro RJ85 is a 100-seat high performance, short-haul passenger jet, offering modern, efficient operations on flights up to 1500 nautical miles (2,800 kilometers). Rugged and versatile, its high wing design is capable of operations on both paved and gravel runways and is equipped with self-contained boarding air stair and auxiliary power unit to provide independence at remote airfields.”

“In partnership with the Det’on Cho Logistics, our Avro RJ85 operations will service the Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine from Edmonton,” said Rob Mauracher. “We have also inked a partnership agreement with First Air, flying commercial passenger services for them under a long term ACMI contract from Edmonton and Yellowknife.”

Summit Air’s second AVRO RJ85 is scheduled to be delivered in late April 2015.

Summit’s AVRO RJ85 is a UK-built aircraft equipped with auto throttle, EFIS flight deck, WAAS/LPV capable and is the only next generation jet certified in Canada for operations onto gravel runways. With a long-range cruising speed of 720 km/hr (450 mph), and a maximum operating speed of 763 km/hr (475 mph), the Avro has a 43,000 kg (97,000 lbs.) maximum takeoff weight.

The aircraft is powered by four Honeywell LF507-1F high bypass FADEC engines capable of 7000 lbs of thrust each. The engines feature low noise levels and low emissions, making it one of the quietest and greenest aircraft in its class.


Copyright Photo: Keith Burton/ The first Summit Air BAe (Avro) RJ85 is pictured as G-CHKP (msn E2302) at Southend which became C-FLRJ on delivery.

First Air aircraft slide show: AG Slide Show

Summit Air aircraft slide show:

Routes to be operated by Summit Air:

First Air-Summit route map

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