First Air and Canadian North have decided to merge their operations into a unified airline. They’re calling it ‘Canadian North’, with headquarters located in Ottawa (YOW).
First Air is an airline in Canada that connects over 30 northern communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, and the Northwest Territories, with major centers in Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Canadian North, on the other hand, serves communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, with southern gateways in Edmonton and Ottawa.
Given the high cost of operation in the region, overlapping route map, flight schedules and combined aircraft capacity far exceeding the demand, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the airlines have decided to merge. They share a common goal to serve the northern communities in Canada. As a result, this merger is sure to help in running an efficient and sustainable airline operation. As with any airline merger, this is an ongoing process. It will unfold over the next few months. In the mean time, here is what we know so far:
- For now, both airlines will continue to operate as two separate companies, serving as two separate brands.
- The new airline will operate under the name ‘Canadian North’. The logo will feature First Air’s distinctive Inukshuk symbol with a red and white color palette.
- Canadian North’s popular Aurora Rewards loyalty program will be expanded to all scheduled flights operated by First Air. For this reason, customers of both airlines can earn Aurora Rewards points and Aeroplan Miles. They can redeem these awards for free flights.
Redeeming Aeroplan for Canadian North and First Air
Perhaps the best kept Aeroplan secret, in terms of value, is the ability to redeem Aeroplan miles for a First Air or Canadian North flight. Cash prices to these remote northern locations can run into thousands of dollars. The ability to book using Aeroplan short-haul rates is pretty awesome. 25,000 round trip Or 15,000 round-trip if starting from Ottawa (YOW) or Montreal (YUL).
Searching for flight availability on either airlines is not available on Aeroplan website. You will need to call Aeroplan to search and book these award flights. You must book a round trip. One-way awards don’t apply. Don’t expect every agent to know how the process works. First, start by telling them what you are trying to book. If they seem unsure, hang up and call again. Here’s why;
Canadian North is fully integrated with the Aeroplan system. Soon, agents will be able to search and confirm your dates over the phone and on the go. Booking Aeroplan awards on First Air however, is a bit more complicated. You need to submit a few dates (or range of dates) to the agents. Next, they will have to call First Air and confirm availability manually. You must call back within 48 hours to check if your dates were confirmed by First Air. Expect this process to a bit so time. With that in mind, try to be flexible with dates and take what you get in a given month.
The good news here is First Air flights will be integrated into the Canadian North’s current system. This will make it possible for Aeroplan agents to search and book tickets across the network without the need for manual check with the airline.
Airline consolidation and mergers are almost never good news for consumers. In most cases, they result in higher air fares due to lack of competition. However, this merger was approved by the federal ministry under strict conditions, including ‘no increase to passenger fares for seven years, on average, by more than any increases in operating costs’. Aeroplan members can look forward to easier booking process on First Air flight routes once they have been incorporated into the current Canadian North system.
Title Image Source: https://irc.inuvialuit.com/