Canada's Airlines - an Overview
There are dozens of small regional airlines and charter services operating in Canada with equipment that ranges from single engine propeller aircraft, float planes and large wide-bodied passenger jets.
Many of the smaller airlines have ticketing agreements with Canada's big five airlines.
Three of the five (Canadian North, First Air, and Air North) lay claim to Canada's three northern territories, an immense, sparsely populated area. They and their affiliates service an area of roughly 1 million square miles (roughly 20% of Canada) and service of population of only about 100,000 people).
Their service is remarkable. They fly in some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. In the summer there is sunshine up to 24 hours a day. In the winter some locations go months without daylight. Add in the mix, communities by arctic sea waters, and passengers can experience days of delays caused by blizzards or temperatures that drop below -40. In one community the power went out during the winter and people lined up snowmobiles with their lights on, on both sides of the runway to guide a plane in.
Two of the five (Air Canada, and Westjet) concentrate on routes between Canada's major cities and own the lion's share of the market. They also offer international flights and vacation packages.
There is some crossover. Canadian North, First Air and Yukon offer flights from the north to and from southern destinations including Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Air Canada (Jazz) and Westjet also offer return flight from southern destinations to Yellowknife (NWT) and Whitehorse (Yukon).
Canada has some of the toughest air transportation regulations in the world so it is easy to buckle up, relax and enjoy the flight.
Air Canada is the country's oldest and largest air carrier. It was founded in 1936 and is rated tenth in the world for the number of destinations it serves. Air Canada's Aeorplan builds customer loyalty and allows for worldwide travel through the company's Star Alliance affiliates.
Air Canada's bread and butter is in supplying air travel between major Canadian cities in the south from Vancouver to St. John's, however it also links up through it's affilate Jazz to Whitehorse and Yellowknife.
It also operates Air Canada Vacations with flights and packages to almost 100 destinations world wide. Air Canada Vacations also offers cruises, tours, and excursions as part of the holiday package.
The company has more than 200 aircraft in it's fleet including the Boeing 777-300ER which seats up t0 300 people.
Many of their long haul flights offer rest and relaxation pods in business class.
The company has a unique business model. All of it's more than 8,000 employees have a financial interest in the company and are not represented by a union.
Westjet, like Air Canada relies on it's southern Canada itineraries to make a profit. The company has been successfully operating out of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for some time and is venturing into Whitehorse in the Yukon in the spring of 2012.
It will be a difficult market to crack despite offering deep discount fares. Yukon flyers either gravitate to Air Canada to build up their frequent flyer miles or to Air North to support the territory's only home grown airline.
Westjet offers service to almost 80 destinations in 15 countries and provides vacation planning services and packages.
737s are the backbone of Westjet's fleet. It has interline agreement with some of the world's largest airlines.
The airline is owned by the Inuvialuit of the western Arctic and the Inuit of the eastern Arctic. Canadian North's tail is easily recognizable with it's bright polar bear.
All major airlines in Canada make announcements in the country's two official languages; French and English. Canadian North also uses Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit.
Canadian North provides excellent service that is reminiscent of a bygone era, They still offer a choice of hot meals on select flights.
The company uses Boeing 737's and de Havilland Canada Dash 8's for it's flights.
Although it is a relatively small airline, it has distinguished itself through it's humanitarain missions, including delivering supplies after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Like Canadian North, many of the company's aircraft are outfitted to deliver a combination of a small amount of passengers and a larger amount of cargo.
First Air links the north with gateways to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal. It's largest aircraft, the Boeing 767, is devoted to carrying food under the Canadian "Nutrition North" program.
First Air is also an airline with exceptional service in the sky.
It's fleet includes the Hawker Siddeley HS 748, Boeing 727, 737, 757 and a Lockheed L-100 Hercules which is primarily dedicated to delivering freight.
One of the major reasons for the company's success is a passionate loyalty from Yukoners who want to see the company succeed. They also expanded their capital by offering shares which allowed purchasers free flights every year.
The company is well known for it's attentive and friendly cabin attendants. It has more than 200 employees. They feature the magazine Yukon, North of Ordinary on their flights.
Air North has five Boeing 737s and 4 Hawker Siddeley aircraft in it's fleet.