With a significant drop in both passenger and freight traffic amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian North has reduced the days its depot is open at Mike Zubko airport in Inuvik.
Residents are now only able to collect and ship packages on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Marketing and Communications manager Dan Valin said Canadian North had also reduced flights to four per week.
Prior to the pandemic, Canadian North made flights between Inuvik, Norman Wells and Yellowknife daily and sometimes twice a day. Since the restrictions to contain COVID-19 were put in place, Canadian North has also reduced flights to other areas in the Beaufort, including limiting flights to Ulukhaktok to once a week.
“These are only temporary changes during this COVID-19 period,” said Valin. “When COVID started we had some staff volunteer to go on layoff in Inuvik and we added another temporary layoff following this in Inuvik. The voluntary layoffs as well as the additional layoff in Inuvik just like anywhere else in our network are all temporary and are expected to come back.”
Valin said three people in total had been laid off in Inuvik during the downturn. Previously he had told NNSL Media the reductions in flights were the result of both government restrictions and reduced ticket sales.
Under current rules, anyone taking a flight must supply their own non-medical mask and middle seats cannot be booked.
Flights to and across the NWT have been rolled back significantly over the past two months as passenger and freight volume collapsed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. An $8.7 million bailout package was announced by the federal government to help keep the companies remain in the air, which the territorial government gave $5,372,000 to Canadian North. The two smaller airlines that operate out of Mike Zubko Airport, North Wright Airways and Aklak Air received $589,000 and $381,000 respectively.
Concerns about reduced services were raised when a merger between Canadian North and First Air was approved by Ottawa in June, 2019. At the time, the federal government laid restrictions that included no increased costs to consumers (outside of increases in operational costs) and no changes to scheduling.
First Air is owned by Makivik Corporation and Canadian North is owned by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. The merged company is also required to submit quarterly financial reports and a yearly financial statement to the minister of Transportation.