Canadian North – Best Managed Companies 2021

From Canadian Business – link to source story

A commitment to serving Canada’s northern regions — in the best and worst of times

By Sadaf Ahsan | May 5, 2021

Someone stands next to a Canadian North airplane.

The company serves more areas in the north than any other Canadian airline. (Courtesy of Canadian North)

Throughout its evolution, Canadian North has been focused on bringing transportation to underserved communities. The company — which began as a subsidiary of Canadian Airlines in 1989 and is now an entirely Inuit-owned airline serving the Northwest Territories, Nunavik and Nunavut — has an ambitious mission statement: “To meaningfully improve the lives of our people, our customers and the communities we serve.”

“You can say we’re perhaps overreaching with this statement, but in the regions we serve, there are often no roads, no rails,” says Chris Avery, Canadian North’s president and CEO. “That’s where our drive comes from. We’re a small company, but we serve a very important population that depends on us.”

Headquartered in Kanata, Ont., Canadian North flies to 25 northern communities, including Arctic Bay, Clyde River and Gjoa Haven, as well as its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton. In addition to carrying about 350,000 passengers a year, it also delivers essential goods — more than 22 million kilograms of freight and mail travel through its route system annually.

Canadian North is also operating more sustainably now, as prior to its merger with First Air in 2019, the two companies were competing to serve the same communities. Now, as one airline, it has half the planes in the air, half the cargo facilities and half the hangars, which makes it a much more energy-efficient company. “Two airlines were flying on top of each other, fighting for a very small pie,” says Avery. Also thanks to the merger, Canadian North is now backed by more financial resources, enabling it to invest in new infrastructure and equipment specifically tailored to the needs of remote communities.

Canadian North’s importance to northern communities was never more apparent than when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Amid lockdowns, its cargo business carried on — because it had to. “Unlike so many other airlines, we can’t stop operating because if we do, people won’t have milk or bread on the shelves,” says Avery. “Our planes also allowed things like COVID tests to move back and forth between labs. Our people stood up through all these changes and continued to deliver just as they always have.”

A big way that Canadian North is taking care of its people is through the recent hire of former CBC anchor Madeleine Allakariallak, who joined the team of over 1,500 employees as director of Inuit employment and talent strategies. In her new role, Allakariallak will be working on engagement and retention programs, furthering the company’s commitment to ensuring the well-being and development of its staff. “It’s important for us to be properly represented across our organization,” says Avery, “whether it’s in leadership, on the flight deck or at check-in.


Introducing your NEW Canadian North

News Release from Canadian North

Canadian North and First Air unite to launch unified flight schedule, reservations system and brand

November 1, 2019

After many months of planning and preparation, Canadian North and First Air have launched their first-ever combined flight schedule, with all flights within it now marketed and sold under the unified name ‘Canadian North.’ From today onwards, Canadian North customers will be able to travel and ship across its vast network of 24 northern communities, from its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the US and beyond. To view this new schedule, please click here.

In conjunction with this schedule launch, Canadian North has also consolidated its reservations systems, airport check-in processes and cargo services. This means that:

  • Canadian North will now serve its customers with a single redesigned website – – which replaces the previous Canadian North and First Air websites. Canadian North will also offer a single Customer Contact Centre telephone number for all passenger and cargo enquiries, 1.800.267.1247.
  • Customers of the unified Canadian North can now check in for their flights at any of its airport counters, and ship to anywhere within its network from any of its cargo facilities. The existing Canadian North and First Air airport check-in counters and cargo facilities in Ottawa, Iqaluit, Edmonton and Yellowknife have been consolidated effective November 1 and its other facilities will be gradually combined over the coming months. For more information, please click here.
  • Aurora Rewards members can now earn Aurora Rewards points on all Canadian North scheduled flights, with the ability to double-dip to earn Aeroplan Miles for the same travel. Aurora Rewards points can be redeemed towards free flights operated by Canadian North as well as a great selection of gift cards. It’s free to join Aurora Rewards and it takes just moments to do so at

Today also marks the official launch of Canadian North’s unified brand, featuring its distinctive Inukshuk logo and red and white colour palette. Northerners will see this brand in more and more places as time progresses, including its uniforms, counter signage and aircraft livery. Canadian North will retain its existing brand assets, including the polar bear, northern lights, midnight sun and First Air name, for use in future special projects and celebratory events that recognize the proud heritage of its founding companies.

The launch of Canadian North’s unified flight schedule, reservations system and brand are significant milestones within the ongoing process to fully integrate Canadian North and First Air. Looking ahead, it will introduce a unified pricing structure in early 2020 that provides all Northerners with access to a range of fare products and cargo rates throughout its entire network, with a new lower-priced economy fare class available for year-round advanced purchase on flights where demand is lower. Canadian North will continue to offer seat sales and other limited-time promotions, exclusive beneficiary fares as well as a range of other available fare classes, with increased flexibility and additional features included within higher-priced fares. It will continue to sponsor and support important initiatives and events throughout the North, managed through its Community Investment Program.

Canadian North will also integrate its flight operations, maintenance facilities and all of its ‘behind-the-scenes’ functions throughout the coming year, while ensuring that it continues to provide a seamless customer experience at every stage.

Looking further ahead, Canadian North will work towards achieving its vision – to build a brand that’s loved and admired within the North, by maintaining safe and efficient operations regardless of the challenging conditions it faces and providing customer service that is second to none. By diversifying into new markets and new business opportunities, it will be able to add scale beyond what it could achieve in Northern markets, enabling it to offer the best possible service to the North while keeping costs down. Canadian North will also develop industry and world-leading Inuit recruitment and development programs, with its goal to be recognized as a top place to work and one of the best managed companies in Canada.

“Today’s launch of our unified flight schedule, customer service functions and brand are extremely important milestones within our ongoing integration journey,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of Canadian North. “We know that our customers and stakeholders depend on the essential services we provide, so we’ll maintain our focus on safe and reliable operations as we continue to integrate our operations over the coming months, while providing caring and helpful service every day, every flight.”

To receive ongoing integration updates, please visit, or follow the new Canadian North on social media:


Aurora Rewards Members Can Now Earn Points on First Air Flights

Provided by Canadian North

September 16, 2019 – Canadian North and First Air are pleased to announce that effective immediately, Aurora Rewards members can earn Aurora Rewards points on all scheduled flights operated by either airline, with the ability to double-dip to earn Aeroplan Miles for the same travel. Aurora Rewards points can be redeemed towards free flights operated by Canadian North as well as a great selection of gift cards. It’s free to join Aurora Rewards and it takes just moments to do so at

As part of the ongoing integration between Canadian North and First Air, they will continue to prepare for the upcoming launch of their unified, comprehensive rewards and recognition program that will enable members to redeem their points towards free flights operated by both airlines throughout their entire combined network, with their most frequent guests recognized with enhanced travel benefits.

“Canadian North’s Aurora Rewards program has proven to be incredibly popular since it launched over 5 years ago and will continue to be an important part of the new, unified Canadian North,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of Canadian North. “There’s no better way for us to show appreciation to our customers than providing Aurora Rewards points that they can redeem towards future travel with us.”

In addition to earning points for bookings with Canadian North and First Air, Aurora Rewards members can also earn points through partnerships with northern retailers – Stanton’s, Northwind Petroleum, Bob’s Welding (Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk locations) and Northern Shopper.

The expansion of Aurora Rewards to First Air-operated flights is an important milestone within the ongoing journey to combine the operations of Canadian North and First Air into a stronger, more sustainable airline – the new Canadian North.

To receive ongoing integration updates, please visit or, or follow First Air and Canadian North on social media:

First Air and Canadian North Announce New Unified Passenger and Cargo Schedule, Effective November 1, 2019

Provided by Canadian North

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, August 30, 2019 – Canadian North and First Air are pleased to announce that their new, unified passenger and cargo schedule is now available for booking and will take effect on Friday, November 1, 2019. Together, they will provide safe, friendly and reliable service to 24 northern communities, from their southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the United States and beyond.

A link to this schedule can be found on the Canadian North and First Air websites:

LINK to an interactive unified schedule

Because Canadian North and First Air continue to operate separate reservations systems, all of the flights shown within this unified schedule can be booked via either airline, using their existing reservations channels:

Airline officials meet with stakeholders to quell merger concerns

News provided by… (link to full story)

Canadian North, First Air officials warn employees to expect job losses

The newly merged airline presented its new look in Iqaluit last week: Canadian North’s name and First Air’s livery. (Photo by Brian Tattuinee)

By  Sarah Rogers 25 July 2019

Officials from Canadian North and First Air say customers can expect to see the two companies, which are now in the process of merging, branded as one by the end of the year.

Transport Canada approved the merger last month, subject to a list of conditions. The two airlines signed off on the transaction July 10.

Since then, airline officials have launched an informal series of town hall meetings with stakeholders along its travel routes, stopping in Iqaluit July 23 to meet at the Frobisher Inn with clients and community organizations.

The new airline’s incoming CEO and president, Chris Avery, says the process of merging is long and complicated, but the airline is aiming to keep its employees and customers up to date as much as possible.

“We’ve definitely heard concerns about the schedule and the capacity,” Avery said. “And we’ve definitely heard concerns about pricing.

“What we’ve told them is that, our intent has always been about providing that service,” he said.

“Our ownership group is 100 per cent Inuit, and their direction is not about cutting services or raising fares. The merger is about providing the best customer service as possible, and keeping prices as low as possible.”

While the administrative transaction required to fully merge the two airlines could take up to two years, Avery says the airlines plan to have a joint reservation system up by the end of 2019, so the new airline—which will take the name Canadian North—will be presented as one brand.

The estimated 18 to 24 months needed to complete the merger is more administrative and “behind the scenes,” he said.

Up until now, the new airline hasn’t said much about the impact the merger will have on its workforce—an estimated 700 employees with Canadian North and 800 with First Air.

“We realize that causes some uncertainties for our employees,” Avery said. “[This merger] is about gaining efficiencies, so there will be some job losses.”

Avery hopes much of that can happen through attrition or a voluntary separation program. In any case, the new airline said it intends to prioritize northern and Inuit jobs.

New airline in talks with Qikiqtaaluk Corp.

With the new airline jointly run by Nunavik Inuit and Inuvialuit-owned corporations, Nunavut does not have its own stake in the new venture—at least not yet.

Owners Makivik Corp. and the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. are in “active conversation” with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s Qikiqtaaluk Corp. about buying an equity stake and having representation on the new airline’s board of directors, Avery said.

Those discussions are also happening with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association.

Canadian North and First Air have made separate bids for the Government of Nunavut’s new medical and duty travel contracts, which include a new public travel component.

The new set of contracts are expected to be announced any time now, though Avery wouldn’t speculate on how the merged airline would deliver on it.

“We’ve both put in submissions, that we’ll obviously honour,” he said. “And we hope we’ll be successful.”

First Air and Canadian North Embark on Transformative Journey to Build Strong, Unified New Northern Airline

Provided by First Air/CNW

OTTAWA, July 10, 2019 /CNW/ – First Air and Canadian North are pleased to announce that their respective owners, Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, have completed the transaction that will enable them to begin merging their operations into a strong and unified airline that will provide safe and sustainable air service to Northern customers and charter clients under the name ‘Canadian North’.

As Northern airlines that are dedicated to the well-being of the communities they serve, First Air and Canadian North have shared the same vital mission – to bridge vast distances, bring people together and deliver important goods – always with friendly and helpful customer service. The highly inefficient status quo of two airlines operating overlapping flight schedules with aircraft capacity that has far exceeded demand on most routes has contributed to higher airfares and cargo rates while impeding their ability to invest in improving their operations. The purpose of this merger is to create an airline that will be able to safely and efficiently serve the North for generations to come, with the ability to continually grow and evolve to meet changing market needs. Safe operations will continue to be the number one priority throughout this integration and beyond.

Because of the complex nature of the airline industry and the many essential services that First Air and Canadian North provide, this integration is expected to take 18 to 24 months, with a tremendous amount of planning, coordination and hard work to be completed within distinct phases. During the initial stages, First Air and Canadian North will continue to serve customers under two separate brands. Scheduled services customers will continue to book, fly and ship cargo with either airline, and charters clients, partners and vendors will also continue to work with the team members and departments they are familiar with.

Looking Ahead

  • A major priority will be to develop a combined flight schedule that will enable customers of both airlines to book any flight operated by First Air or Canadian North. This schedule will be released later this year, several months before it takes effect. Communities will continue to receive passenger and cargo capacity that fully meets their needs, with competitive passenger and cargo rates.
  • 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.
  • A unified ‘Canadian North’ brand will begin to roll out, featuring the First Air’s distinctive Inukshuk logo and red and white colour palette. This brand will be seen in more and more places as time progresses, including the website, uniforms, counter signage and aircraft livery.
  • Dedicated and hard-working First Air and Canadian North team members will be brought together under the unified Canadian North banner. This will be a gradual process that will be completed hand-in-hand with other milestones such as combining flight reservations systems, fare products, operational processes, fleets and facilities.
  • The merged airline will strive to lead the aviation industry as a top employer, with continued focus on recruiting Inuit and other Indigenous team members for excellent careers within this sector.

“We are embarking on an exciting journey and our destination will be a stronger and more sustainable airline, focused entirely on providing safe and friendly passenger and cargo service to the people, organizations and communities that depend on us,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of First Air who will serve as leader of the merged organization. “We understand that our actions touch many lives, so we will maintain a ‘community-first’ approach throughout this integration, which includes carefully considering the essential needs of our customers when making decisions, communicating clearly and listening for feedback.”

The unified Canadian North will leverage its experience and capabilities to expand other areas of its organization that will also contribute to its overall sustainability, such as its successful Charters division, with additional resources available to serve existing clients and bring in new business. This diversification will enable continued growth and evolution, regardless of economic conditions. The merged airline will also continue to lend its support to important community events and initiatives throughout the North.

Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation Complete Transaction to Unite First Air and Canadian North as Strong, Sustainable Pan-Arctic Airline

Provided by Makivik Corporation/CNW

OTTAWA, July 10, 2019 /CNW/ -Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) are pleased to announce that they have completed the transaction to merge First Air and Canadian North into a strong, sustainable Pan-Arctic airline. This means that First Air and Canadian North will be able to begin the process of integrating their operations, with further details on the timing and duration of this process to be released very soon. 

The unified Canadian North will continue to meet and exceed the expectations of the people and organizations that rely on the availability of safe, reliable and cost-effective air service. Johnny Adams, who is currently Executive Chairman of First Air, will serve as Executive Chairman of the merged airline. Patrick Gruben, the current Chairman of Inuvialuit Development Corporation and Chairman of Canadian North, will assume the role of Vice-Chairman. Together, they will provide steady, northern-focused guidance and oversight to the merged airline on behalf of all Northerners.

As a 100% Inuit-owned airline, Canadian North’s overarching mission will be to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods to, from and within Inuit Nunangat, with the potential to expand its service to even more destinations in the future. It will strive to lead the aviation industry as a top employer, with continued focus on recruiting Inuit and other Indigenous team members for excellent careers within this sector. Through these efforts, it will contribute to the development of a stronger and more dynamic northern economy for the benefit of current and future generations.

“The completion of this merger transaction signifies an important step forward for the people of the north,” said Johnny Adams, Executive Chairman. “A unified pan-Arctic airline that provides sustainable passenger and cargo service will help to improve the lives of Northerners through the economic growth that it will enable and career opportunities it will create.” 

“This is truly an Inuit-led solution that will drive additional investment and growth within the northern communities we serve while making the air travel we depend on more sustainable and efficient,” said Patrick Gruben, Vice-Chairman.  

The new Canadian North will serve a combined network of 24 northern communities, from its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the United States and beyond. It will also be the premier provider of air charter services for large resource sector clients requiring dependable, efficient and economical fly-in/fly-out charter services, as well as charter flights across North America for sports teams, cruise lines and large groups.

Inuit-led merger of First Air and Canadian North airlines receives regulatory approval

Provided by Makivik Corporation/CNW

Merger to create sustainable airline dedicated to serving Canada’s Northern regions

OTTAWA, June 19, 2019 /CNW/ – Makivik Corporation (Makivik) and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) today announced they have received all regulatory approvals to merge First Air and Canadian North in order to provide the best possible air services across the Arctic.

This milestone represents a victory for all Northerners, as the ownership groups have worked diligently over many years within Arctic communities, in consultation with Inuit and other stakeholders, and alongside territorial and federal governments to develop a clear, realistic plan for a strong, sustainable Northern airline.

“This is good news,” said Charlie Watt Sr., Makivik President. “In 1990 we bought a troubled airline, First Air, and made it sustainable. At the time, we promised to create an airline owned by all of the Inuit of Canada and we are now much closer to making that a reality.”

Travellers can be confident that there will be no degradation in service during the merger process, nor following its completion. The parties are committed to ensuring that the merger creates a sustainable airline which provides exceptional customer experience at the best possible prices.

“We are following through on our commitment to act in the best interest of all Northerners,” said Duane Smith, Chair and CEO of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC). “By optimizing the Northern air transportation corridor, we are making significant progress in empowering Inuit to become meaningful participants in both the Northern and national economies.”

The new, Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name “Canadian North” and aircraft will use the First Air livery, featuring its Inukshuk logo. Headquarters for the merged airline will be located in Ottawa.

The parties are committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to the merger and its operations on an ongoing basis. Whether before or after the merger, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing Northerners with access to safe, friendly and reliable air travel services across the Arctic.

Government of Canada approves First Air and Canadian North merger

Provided by Transport Canada/CNW

Approval subject to terms and conditions

OTTAWA, June 19, 2019 /CNW/ – From visiting family members, to attending essential medical appointments, to ensuring timely delivery of necessities such as food, medicine and other goods, the Government of Canada understands that a strong and safe aviation system is essential for Canada’s North.

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, today announced that the Government of Canada has approved a merger between First Air and Canadian North, the primary air carriers serving Canada’s North, subject to a series of strict terms and conditions.

In fall 2018, Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group announced an agreement to merge First Air and Canadian North, and filed a merger notification with the Commissioner of Competition and the Minister of Transport. The approval of the merger comes following a public interest assessment, which was led by the Minister of Transport and incorporated the findings of the Commissioner of Competition. Approving the merger with terms and conditions strikes a balance between any public interest considerations and the need to have a more efficient and financially sustainable northern air carrier.

The terms and conditions include:

  • No price increases for both passenger travel and cargo delivery beyond those related to operating costs;
  • No reductions to the weekly schedule options on all routes of the airlines’ combined network;
  • Access to northern infrastructure (facilities and equipment) for new airlines entering the market;
  • A commitment to increasing Inuit representation across the merged entity’s operations; and
  • Several transparency and accountability measures, such as providing quarterly financial updates and yearly financial statements to the Minister.

The terms and conditions also ensure that items such as nutritious food and essential medical supplies are prioritized for cargo transportation in the North. A confidential Implementation and Monitoring Agreement to be signed between the Minister of Transport and the parent companies of the two merging airlines will ensure compliance with the terms and conditions.


“The North, more than any other region in Canada, relies on air transportation to maintain quality of life. We carefully examined the public interest, financial and competition aspects of the proposed merger. A strong, financially stable northern air carrier, taking advantage of operating and network efficiencies of a merger, will best serve the North by leading to greater reliability of service as well as environmental sustainability. The strict terms and conditions will keep costs low and ensure northern and remote communities have the access they deserve, while at the same time protecting northern jobs.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau                                        
Minister of Transport

Associated Link

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SOURCE Transport Canada