Wasaya Airways CEO Tom Morris says the 25-year-old First Nations airline is not in financial straits as indicated in a December 2013 letter to the ownership chiefs.
“We are 100 per cent safe and we’ll be here for a long time,” Morris said. “There’s been a lot of speculation in the media as well as the social media. We just wanted to tell our side of the story and tell the truth, the true picture of where we are.”
Sandy Lake Chief Bart Meekis, chair of the Wasaya Group Inc. board of directors, raised concerns about Wasaya Airways’ financial status in the Dec. 16 letter, where he appealed for help to resolve Wasaya Airways’ “serious accounts receivable problem.”
“As you know, our independent advisor has stated clearly that unless we are able to substantially reduce the amount owed to (Wasaya) Airways by our ownership First Nations, as represented by you, within the next month, (Wasaya) Airways is in danger of collapsing,” Meekis stated in the letter.
“The impact of this would be catastrophic, not only for you and for your community, but also for the other First Nations and businesses within each community, as no other airway will be willing and able to offer the level of service that we currently provide.”
Morris said $2.6 million is currently owed by the ownership communities to Wasaya Airways.
“It fluctuates in any given year, at any time,” Morris said.
But Morris also said Wasaya Airways had been running a profit for the year up to the end of the third quarter in December 2013.
“With the winter road season, we’ve done a lot of concessions to ensure we don’t expend as much money during this winter road season,” Morris said. “We’re monitoring our expenditures.”
Morris said Wasaya Airways has been profitable in some years and not profitable in other years.
“There’s been years where we’ve been profitable and then some years where we’re not profitable,” Morris said. “There’s been some peaks and there’s been some valleys, as with any business.”
Morris said Wasaya Airways is not selling off assets.
“We are not selling off any aircraft or any of our assets, or hangars or anything like that,” Morris said. “We are actually looking at different aircraft as well.”
Morris said he spoke to community members over the Wawatay Radio Network, where he discussed Wasaya’s financial situation as well as a year-old Safety Management System report from the federal government.
“SMS is not anything aircraft related,” Morris said. “We’re still maintaining our aircraft, we’re still doing the maintenance on the aircraft. SMS is about procedures and paperwork. We have to date corrected most of the items from one year ago when that report came.”
Morris said some of the SMS items take time to correct.
“You don’t fix a problem just the next day,” Morris said. “You’ve got to put people in place to work on (the problems). There are no safety issues — our aircraft are safe.”
Sandy Lake joined Wasaya Group Inc. as the 12th shareholder in 2012, joining Bearskin Lake, Fort Severn, Kasabonika Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Muskrat Dam, Nibinamik, Pikangikum, Wapekeka, Wunnumin Lake and Keewaywin.
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