Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 18, 2016 - 7:00 am

Codeshare kaput: First Air ends flight sharing deal with Canadian North

Airlines to fly solo after May 2017; codeshare flights booked after that will be re-booked

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Faced with an investigation into price-fixing from the Competition Bureau of Canada and mounting criticism from Nunavut leaders and residents, First Air announced it will bail out of its codeshare agreement with Canadian North as of March 16, 2017 and fly solo thereafter. (FILE PHOTO)
Faced with an investigation into price-fixing from the Competition Bureau of Canada and mounting criticism from Nunavut leaders and residents, First Air announced it will bail out of its codeshare agreement with Canadian North as of March 16, 2017 and fly solo thereafter. (FILE PHOTO)

First Air has filed for divorce just shy of the two-year anniversary of its codeshare marriage with Canadian North, saying in a Nov. 17 news release that it plans to walk away from Canadian North on May 16, 2017.

Customers “have told us that they strongly prefer to fly First Air on its own,” said First Air’s president and CEO, Brock Friesen, in the release.

In May 2015, the two airlines signed their codeshare agreement which allowed them to share routes rather than duplicate services.

By early 2017, First Air said it will have all six of its new ATR42-500 jets in service bringing its ATR fleet to 13.

So, together with a “capacity purchase arrangement” with Summit Air and a joint freighter service with Cargojet, First Air, “now has ample fleet to provide a robust schedule in both the Eastern and Western Arctic,” Friesen added in the release.

Canadian North appears to have been caught off guard by First Air’s change of heart.

In a brief statement released to media late Nov. 17, Canadian North president Steve Hankirk said the company was “disappointed by First Air’s sudden, unilateral decision to terminate the codeshare agreement with our airline, given the numerous efficiencies and schedule improvements it had enabled.”

Acknowledging that air service for northerners is “a vital lifeline,” Hankirk thanked customers for their support.

“We will continue to do all that we can to remain your airline of choice by offering competitive pricing and exceptional customer service, with safe operations always our number one priority.”

Codeshare earned few fans and much scorn north of 60.

Customers from east to west complained about overbooked flights, poor schedules and waylaid cargo as well as medical travel and prescription drug delays.

The deal prompted criticism from Nunavut’s premier, a round of public scrutiny at the Nunavut legislature, a threat to end a long-standing medical travel contract and an investigation into price-fixing by the Competition Bureau of Canada.

The codeshare agreements followed a failed attempt to merge the two airlines in 2014, when they began talks aimed at creating a single airline for the North.

But those merger negotiations died in October 2014 and neither of the two sides ever explained why.

Customers holding reservations beyond May 16, 2017 will automatically be re-confirmed on a new flight if their flight schedule has changed, First Air’s news release said.

Should they have further questions, customers can check online or call customer service at 1-800-267-1247.

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