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Canadian North merger in effect, but future fares still unclear

Friday marked the launch of the Canadian North and First Air merger on several fronts, including the new unified flight schedule, but the specific impact on the future price of tickets is still unknown.

The airline's unified price structure won't be introduced until 2020.

Canadian North will fly across 24 Northern communities from its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Alex Praglowski.

In the legislative assembly last week, Transportation Minister David Akeeagok said the GN has negotiated under its medical and duty travel contract that a minimum of 50 per cent of the seats, on average per week, must be available as economy fares. However, those tickets must be purchased at least two weeks in advance; have fees attached for booking changes or cancellation; and offer fewer baggage privileges.

"It's substantially cheaper than any published fare that was available at the time of the RFP (request for proposals)," John Hawkins, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Transportation, said of the economy fares.

Akeeagok also noted that the Department of Transportation will have a representative – associate deputy minister Jimi Onalik – sitting as a member of an independent advisory board established by Transport Canada. That board will be responsible for ensuring that Canadian North complies with the terms and conditions of the airline merger with First Air.

Canadian North has stated in a news release that its lower-priced economy fare class will be available year round on flights "where demand is lower." It also mentioned that seat sales and beneficiary fares will continue.

From its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, Canadian North customers will be able to travel and ship cargo across 24 northern communities.

According to Dan Valin, the marketing and communications manager at Canadian North, there are no new routes.

"The full new network is a combination of both previous networks, so no new routes in total," said Valin.

The unified Canadian North has also consolidated its reservations systems, cargo services and airport check-in processes.

Customers of the Canadian North can now check in for their flights at any of its airport counters. Within its network, customers can also ship from any of its cargo facilities.