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Merged airline flight schedule still many months away; loyalty program remains

Canadian North and First Air confirmed Wednesday that their merger, already granted regulatory approval with several conditions, is now officially complete on paper.

Full effects of the Canadian North and First Air merger will take 18 to 24 months to put in place, the airlines announced Wednesday.
Brian Tattuinee photo

However, it will still take 18 to 24 months for the full integration to be concluded on the ground and in the air, according to a news release.

The combined airline's flight schedule will be released publicly several months before it takes effect, the airlines stated. Until then, "customers will continue to
book, fly and ship cargo with either airline," the news release reads. Eventually, the Ottawa-based merged airline will be known only as Canadian North and the planes will bear the familiar red and white colours of First Air with the inuksuk logo.

Canadian North’s Aurora Rewards loyalty program will be expanded to all scheduled flights operated by First Air, and Aeroplan Miles can also be redeemed for free flights, the airlines noted.

The 1,600 employees of both airlines will gradually be brought together to handle flight reservations, fare products, operational processes as well as fleets and facilities. The news release makes no mention of job losses, but it does commit 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."

Quebec-based Makivik Corporation and the Inuvik-based Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) proposed the combining of the two dominant airlines in July 2018. They stated then and reiterated in Wednesday's news release that "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."

In approving the merger in June, Transport Canada set the following terms for the combined airline:

  • No price increases for both passenger travel and cargo delivery beyond those related to operating costs
  • No reductions to the weekly schedule options on all routes of the airlines’ combined network
  • Access to northern infrastructure (facilities and equipment) for new airlines entering the market
  • A commitment to increasing Inuit representation across the merged entity’s operations
  • Several transparency and accountability measures, such as providing quarterly financial updates and yearly financial statements to the minister of Transport Canada.