More airlines balk at serving Nunavut

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Another trio of airlines has rejected the idea of offering scheduled passenger or cargo flights in Nunavut.

Nolinor Aviation isn't planning to jump into the Nunavut market to begin scheduled flights. The same response that Flair Air and Air North recently gave. photo courtesy of Nolinor Aviation
Nolinor Aviation isn’t planning to jump into the Nunavut market to begin scheduled flights. The same response that Flair Air and Air North recently gave. photo courtesy of Nolinor Aviation

Representatives from Flair Air, Nolinor Aviation and Air North told Nunavut News that their companies aren’t vying to establish a presence in Nunavut, the same response given earlier by Air Canada and WestJet. Calm Air, which already operates in the territory, has no ambition to expand its services, a spokesperson said previously.

“Flair (Air) does not have any immediate plans to expand service into Nunavut,” Julie Rempel, head of communications for Flair Air, stated in an email.

Based on Kelowna, B.C., Flair Air was prepared to partner with Iqaluit businessman Adamie Itorcheak to launch independent airline GoSarvaq, with flights from Iqaluit to Ottawa, in 2016. However, the venture never got off the ground after First Air and Canadian North drastically reduced fares.

Itorcheak didn’t return multiple phone calls seeking comment on whether he has any new airline aspirations.

Don’t expect to see Air North expanding into Nunavut either. Based in Whitehorse, Air North flies in the Yukon, the NWT, Ottawa, B.C. and Alberta.

“No, we have no particular interest in going that far East,” said Air North president Joe Sparling.

From an airline owner’s perspective, Sparling expressed his understanding of First Air and Canadian North’s plan to merge.

“I think your biggest problem over in your region is there’s too many empty seats flying around,” he said. “I’m not sure getting more carriers is going to solve that problem. I think it will probably add to it.”

The First Air/Canadian North merger, if approved, should allow for greater efficiency and lower costs, Sparling suggested.

Marco Prud’Homme, vice-president of Mirabel, Que.-based Nolinor Aviation, said the GN has contacted his company about registering to be a potential service provider through the government’s Airline Procurement Strategy, but it’s not of interest at this time, Prud’Homme said.

“Our fleet is busy doing charter flights… we’re flying every day and we’re pretty happy with what we’re doing,” said Prud’Homme, whose company’s business includes transporting workers for crew shift changes at Northern mines. “We look at that market (in Nunavut) and we know that there’s an interest to have more competition but there’s a low volume for that market.”

Although Nolinor recently purchased a few additional 737-200 planes, including a couple of former First Air aircraft, those planes have already been dedicated to charter flights, Prud’Homme said.

“We salute the initiative,” he said of the GN’s Airline Procurement Strategy. “It’s a first, that’s for sure. I guess for us we’ll see how it goes on the first round and we’ll see if there’s an interest on the second round.”

In an Aug. 22 interview with Nunavut News, Economic Development and Transportation Minister David Akeeagok expressed confidence that additional airlines will express interest in providing duty, medical and personal travel as well as cargo services in Nunavut, which the GN is attempting to encourage through its Airline Procurement Strategy.

Canadian North and First Air representatives have stated that they hope their proposed merger will be approved by regulatory authorities by the end of this year.

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