Codeshare airlines defend agreement again in legislature hearings
'Do the opinions of the customers and Nunavummiut even matter now?' asked one MLA
The presidents of Nunavut's three biggest airlines maintain that their service is as good as it's ever been, and perhaps better, despite the controversial codeshare agreement which some consumers say has lead to more delays and higher priced tickets.
The presidents of First Air, Canadian North and Calm Air were in the Nunavut's legislative assembly Tuesday to answer MLA's questions about codeshare.
All three said the previous model — going it alone — was unsustainable. They were flying half empty planes and facing the high cost of jet fuel and Nunavut's unpredictable weather.
"In all of 2015 we missed in Winnipeg once," said Calm Air president Gary Bell, "whereas in the Kivalliq Region in July alone ... not mechanical, not crew issues but weather and runway issues alone resulted in 114 cancellations."
Premier Peter Taptuna was quick to challenge the airlines' view that their system is working.
"On the one hand you state that you have not increased airfare," Taptuna said. "On the other hand, by restricting the number of lower airfare seat classes available you have forced the consumer to buy the higher price tickets."
Tununiq MLA Joe Enook was similarly unimpressed.
"Do the opinions of the customers and Nunavummiut even matter now because you, the business owners, believe the codeshare is working great?"
Still, the airlines said they are businesses and will make decisions based on what's profitable.
They also said that if the territorial government wants to make air services cheaper and faster, they should improve airport infrastructure, and especially, Nunavut's many gravel runways.
"Gravel runways across Nunavut mean our maintenance costs are much higher than those of other airlines," said Brock Friesen, president and CEO of First Air.
"A couple of years ago I did some math and found out that $20 of every ticket price goes to pay for propeller repairs on our fleet up here because of gravel runways."