Canadian North comes into its own with new call sign, air operator certificate

Step finalizes merger between Canadian North and First Air

This screenshot from the website shows an Iqaluit-bound Canadian North flight, in green, using the airline’s new AKT (short for ARCTIC) call sign. (Images courtesy of

By Sarah Rogers

Canadian North has completed one of the last steps finalizing its merger with First Air.

The airline has secured a single Air Operator Certificate, a Transport Canada-issued certificate that confirms the commercial air service complies with aviation regulations.

Over the last year and a half, the airline has operated under two separate Air Operator Certificates — one for old Canadian North and one for now-defunct First Air.

Canadian North called the streamlining of its operations under a single certificate “a significant milestone” in a news release Thursday.

After years of negotiations and code-sharing agreements, the federal government approved the merger between Canadian North and First Air in 2019.

In addition to the certificate, Canadian North has adopted a new call sign, a group of alphanumeric characters that are used to identify an aircraft in air and ground communications. Canadian North’s new call sign has aptly been registered as ARCTIC for all flights; its three-letter designator is AKT.

Former call signs EMPRESS and FIRST AIR have now been retired, the airline said.

“The storied history of Canadian North and First Air is rich and admirable,” said Canadian North president and CEO Chris Avery in the news release.

“With this respect of our past firmly in my mind, I am looking forward to our future together under call sign ‘ARCTIC.’ We are creating new history.”

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Raven on

    ARCTIC tusaavi?

    • Posted by Bruce on

      Empress was retired decades ago along with the old Canadian Pacific and PWA, as I recall CDN (Canadian) was designator for Canadian North. Just saying

      • Posted by Matt on

        They still used Empress until just now. I heard it countless times while hanging out in the CARS office, waiting for a plane to land.

  2. Posted by Michael J Pendray on


  3. Posted by Kyle on

    It’s a sad day to see the call sign “Empress” be let go. For 79 years the call sign was a staple of Canadian aviation. It had a temporary hiatus when CP was merged with Nordair & PWA but came back after Air Canada’s purchase of Canadian Airlines in Canadian Noth’s identity. I’m proud to say I flew the callsign Empress & I’m betting it will return as a hallmark of Canadian aviation.

    • Posted by Donald W on

      I agree. There’s something proud, prestigious, & unique about EMPRESS. Having lived & flown in the North for 47 years and seen all 5T’s predecessors go by in a progression of rich history, I’ll be sad to ‘hear’ the demise of EMPRESS. But happily, it’s still one of the best airlines in the world, and their service in this unforgiving part of the world is exemplary.

  4. Posted by So how’s it going? on

    This might be a good opportunity to hear if people think there’s been any improvement or deterioration in services from Canadian North since the merger. Are things better? worse? Mostly the same? Have prices improved or become higher?
    It might be a little biased or limited since we’ve all been dealing with Covid for a year, but I’d like to hear people’s feedback.

    • Posted by 7F on

      It is definitely not the same, more cut corners, and despite merging, cancellations due to short staffed are still happening quite often. CanadianNorthOpoly is strong in the North. Most of the long term First Air staff got shafted and ended up quitting and retiring. It says a lot when an employee at the counter in Iqaluit of 15 years quits and leaves town.

      And still no true local employees. Rotational staff hiring is going on, creating a big divide.

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