First Air, Air North strike codeshare deal for Ottawa, Yellowknife, Whitehorse
"Canada's northern airlines need closer cooperation in order to ensure sustainability"
(Updated at 5 p.m.)
Two northern airlines took a big new step May 11 towards pan-northern co-operation in the skies.
Makivik Corp.-owned First Air and Air North, Yukon’s airline, whose partners include the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, announced May 11 that they will codeshare on selected flights between Ottawa, Yellowknife and Whitehorse, which are operated by Air North.
“This arrangement will go a long way towards making this very popular route sustainable on a year-round basis,” said Joe Sparling, Air North’s president, in a joint news release.
First Air and Air North will start the codeshare co-operation on the Ottawa-Yellowknife-Whitehorse route, currently operated by Air North, twice weekly by a Boeing 737-500.
The flight north leaves Ottawa on Mondays and Fridays at 11:50 a.m., arriving in Yellowknife at 2:30 p.m., before heading on to Whitehorse.
The Yellowknife-Ottawa flights run Thursdays and Sundays from Whitehorse, to depart Yellowknife at 5:55 p.m. and land in Ottawa shortly after midnight.
Air North will operate a third Ottawa flight between June 13 and Sept. 16 on Tuesdays, returning westbound on Wednesdays, with the same schedule as the other flights.
“Canada’s Northern Airlines need closer co-operation in order to ensure sustainability in small northern markets and we are proud to be working with First Air. We are confident that we will both benefit from the efficiencies,” said Allan Moore, Air North’s chief commercial officer at Air North.
By codesharing, the airlines can both sell and market seats on codeshare flights. The codeshare means you can buy a seat on either airline’s designator code — “7F’ for First Air and “4N” for Air North, but the flight will be operated by only one of the airlines.
“With the addition of Air North to our growing list of airline partners, we’ve reached yet another milestone in the implementation of our partnership strategy, consistently improving the sustainability of scheduled airline services in northern Canada,” said Bert van der Stege, First Air’s vice president responsible for commercial operations.
The first codeshare flight will depart Whitehorse May 15 and, like all other flights, be available for sale from Air North and First Air.
With the new codeshare, territorial and federal public servants as well as those employed by Inuit organizations may be able to fly east more often on Air North flights.
To date, Air North hasn’t seen a lot of business from the Nunavut government, Air North’s president told Nunatsiaq News earlier this year.
That’s because the Nunavut government has an agreement under which its employees are obliged to travel on Canadian North, no matter what the cost.
However, many travellers from western Nunavut who must travel through Yellowknife to head east — and especially those who don’t quality for beneficiary-related discounts from Canadian North and First Air — have already discovered the service.
The May 11 news release did not say whether beneficiary discounts on First Air would apply on the new codeshare. The airline later confirmed that it would not be offering any discounted rates on codeshared flights operated by Air North, prompting a Tweet from Canadian North later that said “beneficiaries can save at least 65% when you book w/ us – any day, any route.”
The announcement of the new codeshare alliance between First Air and Air North follows the recent announcement that a newcomer to Nunavut’s aviation market, Go Sarvaq, could not compete with lower airfares offered by First Air and Canadian North for the Iqaluit-Ottawa route and would pull the plug on its Iqaluit-Ottawa-Halifax route.