First Air and Canadian North have decided to merge their operations into a unified airline, under the name ‘Canadian North’, with the headquarter 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.

Aeroplan for Canadian North and First Air

First Air route map (Source: First Air)

 

Aeroplan for Canadian North and First Air

Canadian North route map (Source: Canadian North)

Given the high cost of operation in the region, overlapping route map, flight schedules and combined aircraft capacity far exceeding the demand, it does not come as a surprise that the airlines have decided to merge. This merger will definitely help in running an efficient and sustainable airline operation, with a common goal to serve the northern communities in Canada. As with any airline merger, this is an ongoing process and will unfold over the next few months. 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’, featuring the First Air’s distinctive Inukshuk logo and red and white color palette.
  • Canadian North’s popular Aurora Rewards loyalty program will be expanded to all scheduled flights operated by First Air, so that customers of both airlines have the ability to earn Aurora Rewards points and Aeroplan Miles that can be redeemed 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. Since cash prices to these remote northern locations can run into thousands of dollars, the ability to book it 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 cannot be booked (as per my experience back in 2014). Worth checking if this has changed and if members can book one-way fares on these segments. Don’t expect every agent to know how the process works, start with telling them what you are trying to book and if they seem unsure, hang up and call again. Here’s why;

Canadian North is fully integrated with the Aeroplan system, so agents will be able to search and confirm your dates over the phone, 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 who then 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.  This process can take longer and can be hit or miss. Best to be flexible with dates and take what you get in a given month.

The good news here is, once this merger is completed, First Air flights will be integrated into the Canadian North’s current system, which means Aeroplan agents should be able to search and book tickets across the network without the need for manual check with the airline.

Take Away

Airline consolidation and mergers are 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.

The integration news has been updated on both airlines’ websites and would be a good place to keep tabs, for those interested – First Air and Canadian North

 

Title Image Source: https://irc.inuvialuit.com/