Canadian North’s merger with First Air has been followed by some cargo headaches.
The Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce released a statement describing freight arrival as “horrific at best” since the airlines started combining services on Nov. 1.
Mail is slower and perishable products on grocery store shelves have been in worse condition, according to feedback from Chamber members, stated the organization’s executive director, Valter Botelho-Resendes.
The Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce and the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce, however, reported that none of their member businesses had made complaints related to the merger.
Iqaluit mechanic Mike Gilbert, who runs Upper Base, said he’s noticed an added week or two to get vehicle parts and that has resulted in unhappy customers whose vehicles are sitting idle for longer.
“Before it was two weeks, not too bad, but now it’s a month or a month and something,” Gilbert said, adding that delays increase the odds that parked cars and trucks will have dead batteries from the bitter cold.
Canadian North spokesperson Dan Valin acknowledged that there has been some turbulence in regards to cargo delivery but he primarily attributed it to factors outside the integration of the airlines.
“We have unfortunately had some delays and cancellations due to mechanical or weather situations. This has caused some delays in cargo movement as well. We are working on adding cargo capacity to rectify any backlog this has caused,” Valin stated.
Gilbert also said shock absorbers have suddenly been classified as dangerous goods. It results in more paperwork and an extra couple of hundred dollars per shock absorber, he said.
“It’s way more money and they never, never, never charged me (for dangerous goods) in 11 years when I was dealing with First Air… it’s insane,” said Gilbert. “They don’t care as much as before when we had the chance of saying, ‘You’re not right. We’ll go to the other (airline).”
Valin replied that this is was a mistake. The shock absorbers were classified incorrectly. He said Gilbert has been contacted, the situation will be rectified going forward and Gilbert will be credited for incurred expenses.
Another concern expressed by the Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce is the lack of available seats through Aeroplan as late as October 2020. Valin said Canadian North intends to carry on its partnership with Aeroplan and the airline’s internal system shows seats can be booked through Aeroplan next fall. He said Canadian North will look into that complaint.
No staff reductions yet
It will take up to 18 more months for all aspects of the merger to be completed, according to Valin. The airline has not laid off any of its close to 1,600 staff as a result of First Air and Canadian North joining forces, he added.
“We have stated that we expect some workforce reductions as part of the merger, but we will endeavour to accomplish this through attrition or voluntary exits, where possible,” Valin stated.
During the merger negotiations, Quebec-Inuit owned Makivik Corporation and NWT Inuit-owned Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the proprietors of Canadian North, expressed interest in having Nunavut Inuit take equity in the merged airline.
“Talks are ongoing and it continues to be our wish to have Nunavut Inuit take an ownership stake in the airline,” said Valin.
Land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated didn’t respond to Nunavut News’ request for comment prior to deadline.