Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 53 seconds.
On June 16, 2017, a new airline took to the skies above Labrador: Air Borealis. It is a carrier made up of the Innu Development Limited Partnership (IDLP) and the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies (NGC), together with PAL Airlines. IDLP previously owned Innu Mikun Airlines in Northern Labrador, while NGC owned Air Labrador.
Today, PAL Airlines operates Air Borealis out of Goose Bay, Labrador. Air Borealis’ fleet of seven DHC-6 Twin Otters primarily serves communities on Labrador’s north and south coasts. It also provides medical travel–both scheduled and medevac flights–to both coasts for the regional health authority, Labrador Grenfell Health.
“The indigenous groups represented by IDLP and NGC saw an opportunity to serve their communities more effectively and completely by coming together into one,” explained Stephen Dinn, PAL Airlines’ vice-president of business development. “The creation of Air Borealis is an opportunity improve the frequency and quality of the services we can offer to residents and to expand our reach in the north.”
Under the Air Borealis partnership, the two indigenous groups and PAL Airlines each have equal ownership.
Based out of St. John’s, N.L., PAL Airlines is already familiar with this region. The carrier has operated Innu Mikun Airlines for the IDLP for the last 20 years. PAL Airlines’ own fleet of Dash 8-100/300s also flies to locations throughout the Maritimes and Quebec; making this airline a natural partner to Air Borealis.
With the creation of Air Borealis, two of Labrador’s major indigenous groups and PAL Airlines now have a monopoly in airline service to Northern Labrador. Unfortunately, any form of monopoly can make customers nervous; especially in the North, where residents already pay far more for goods and services than people do in Southern Canada.
NGC has addressed these concerns through an online FAQ entitled “Questions and Answers regarding Air Borealis.” According to NGC, keeping Air Labrador operating as a separate airline “would have required new investment from NGC and the Labrador Inuit Capital Strategy Trust. We also had to recognize that Northern Labrador is a unique market of about 5,000 people. More investment would require higher fares and reduced services.”
In contrast, combining the two airlines’ resources makes it possible to keep airfare prices steady for beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement (who own NGC) and other Northern Labrador air passengers, while increasing the number of flights serving this region.
“We decided to start on a new path that will allow us to improve service,” said the NGC FAQ. “We have added a mid-day flight, in addition to the existing morning and afternoon flights.”
For his part, PAL Airlines’ Stephen Dinn sees Air Borealis as a win-win for the airline’s partners and passengers alike.
“All three of us–IDLP, NGC, and PAL Airlines–have a proven history of serving Northern Labrador air passengers with pride and reliability,” he said. “Coming together into Air Borealis allows us to do this better than ever before.”