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Codeshare complaints come forward
Canadian Competition Bureau called to territory

Karen K. Ho
Northern News Services
Saturday, October 10, 2015

Complaints about the changes due to First Air, Canadian North and Calm Air's codeshare agreement have risen to the point of involving the Canadian Competition Bureau.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Canadian Competition Bureau is looking into a new codeshare agreement between First Air, Canadian North and Calm Air. According to what Premier Peter Taptuna hearing from his constituents this is causing delays at airports across the territory including to the Iqaluit airport. - NNSL file photo

A standard practice in the airline industry called codesharing, means that the three companies can sell and market seats and cargo space on the same flight.

However, Premier Peter Taptuna said he's been hearing constituents across the territory complain about many different problems soon after the codeshare went into effect.

"Freight delays, cargo delays, fewer seats and of course inconvenience placed on elders and medical patients that have been delayed at hotels and airports and boarding homes," he said. "Some are missing appointments with doctors. What's happening now is not very satisfactory. It's not satisfactory to the customers we represent in Nunavut."

Initially, First Air said there would be many benefits for Nunavut, including additional flights between Iqaluit and Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq. Daily flights between Yellowknife and Kugluktuk, 13 flights per week between Rankin Inlet and Winnipeg were also listed in a news release, as well as better connections to Calm Air flights between Rankin Inlet and communities in Kivalliq.

But on Sept. 1, Flair Air was contracted by First Air to run the Ottawa to Iqaluit route, while a Boeing 737-400 was being converted to a combi aircraft that could carry both passengers and cargo. As a result, Canadian North suspended codeshare flights with First Air on their Ottawa - Iqaluit route during this period.

Taptuna said delays are also impacting shipments of fresh produce into Northern communities.

"It's one of those things where we're getting (complaints) forwarded to us, every MLA," he said. "In Kivalliq it was quite drastic because it's one airline operating now - Calm Air."

Taptuna said that flying in the North isn't a luxury.

"It's a service that's desperately needed in our communities," he said. "I think it took everybody by surprise when the codeshare went into place."

Nunavut spokesperson Yasmine Pepa said various departments of the GN sat on the recent closed-door discussions with representatives of the Canadian Competition Bureau.

In an e-mail to Nunavut News/North, the bureau's senior communications advisor, Mélanie Beauchesne, confirmed that her organization is currently reviewing First Air's agreements to codeshare with Calm Air and Canadian North on selected flights operated by the three airlines. Beauchesne also confirmed meetings were held in Iqaluit.

She explained her organization's presence is the territory as such: "The bureau may review transactions under the provisions of the Competition Act relating to mergers or agreements or arrangements among competitors to determine if those transactions have the potential to substantially lessen or prevent competition. It is difficult to say how long a particular review will take, as the bureau evaluates the steps that need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. As always, we work to complete our reviews as expeditiously as possible."

The organization has the power to seize documents, refer criminal matters to the Attorney General of Canada and the power to bring civil matters before the competition tribunal and other courts.

Canadian North spokesperson Kelly Lewis also said his company has received feedback in response to schedule changes that occurred after the codeshare agreement was implemented.

"We are aware that the Competition Bureau is currently speaking with government and business representatives about Northern air service and we are prepared to respond to any enquiries they may have," he stated in an e-mail.

Beauchesne said the confidential nature of the review means additional details could not be given beyond the goal of a review being gathering the necessary evidence required to determine to whether a transaction like the current codeshare agreement is likely to result in a prevention of competition in Nunavut.

Taptuna said that as the largest customer of Northern airlines in the territory, the government has certainly been effected by the codeshare agreement as well.

"There is fiscal impact for delays in moving our employees back and forth from region to region," he said. "If they do have to spend extra days in a hotel and then fly out on the weekend, that does have a cost to the bottom line to the Government of Nunavut."

Taptuna said delays in freight also affect the transportation of medical supplies, samples to medical laboratories, and even parts needed by small businesses.

"There's no doubt it's impacting all the construction that's happening in Nunavut," he said.

As for the future, Taptuna said any problems with the codeshare agreement will definitely be brought up in the upcoming session of the legislative assembly set to take place on Oct. 21.

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