First Air cuts regular service to Naujaat as of Oct. 1

“It’s not been a very good route for us, economically”


First Air is cutting scheduled service to Naujaat, the Nunavut community formerly called Repulse Bay, starting Oct. 1, a vice president of the airline told Nunatsiaq News Aug. 29.

“It’s not been a very good route for us, economically,” said Bert van der Stege, First Air’s VP of commercial affairs, said.

“We don’t see any signs of improvement and that’s why we took this position.”

The decision was made after the airline analysed the route performance of its entire network of flights, measuring a number of factors such as number of passengers, amount of cargo and fare costs passengers are willing to pay, van der Stege said.

The analysis also revealed opportunities for growth, he added.

“We now fly more flights between Ottawa and Iqaluit, for example. And we’re looking at expanding elsewhere across the network.”

First Air began scheduled flights to Repulse Bay in 2010, and was flying four times a week to the community.

The airline will still be available for privately chartered flights to Repulse Bay.

Calm Air, a partner of Canadian North, continues to serve Repulse Bay with daily flights.

First Air, owned by Makivik Corp., and Canadian North, owned by Norterra Inc., the two largest airlines serving the North, announced in April that they were considering a merger.

Van der Stege said talks between shareholders of the two companies are continuing, and that a submission to the federal competition bureau has yet to be filed.

“For now, we run the airlines as if we’re completely stand-alone airlines… and commercial decisions as such are unrelated to merger talks,” Van der Stege said.

He also pointed out that Canada, unlike Europe, does not subsidize air travel routes to remote communities, even though the federal government does subsidize other “vital infrastructure links” such as roads, waterways and railways.

“Many of the communities we serve are entirely dependent on air transport,” he said. “And air transport has to be self-sufficient. That’s why the economic performance of the route is ever more important to us.”

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