Air transportation savings are on the horizon for Muskrat Dam and Sachigo Lake after signing on to a strategic business partnership with North Star Air and its alliance company Cargo North.
“It lowers the costs down for a personal trip for individuals,” said Sachigo Chief Alvin Beardy during the June 19 announcement of the agreement at the North Star Air hangar in Thunder Bay. “Competition is healthy and I believe that once people know (about the costs) they will be using North Star Air and Cargo North more.”
Beardy noted an example where a woman saved about $140 on a one-way flight to Round Lake.
“That was a big difference for her, so her choice of an airline was North Star,” Beardy said.
While North Star Air will benefit passenger services, Cargo North will assist in costs related to freight.
“Right now as it stands, the freight costs are prohibitive for the community (and) the individuals as well who want to carry their freight up to our community,” Beardy said.
Not only is the cost of freight a concern, but also how fast it may be delivered to the communities. Beardy noted people often have to wait six or seven days to receive orders.
“Those are the things we want to make changes to: more improved services, better services and quality of service,” Beardy said.
The two communities are also looking for a number of benefits from signing on with North Star Air, including new socio-economic development opportunities, investments back to the community, a reduction in security of supply risks and more choices for air passenger services.
Muskrat Dam Chief Gordon Beardy said his community signed on with North Star Air and Cargo North after discussions with a number of airlines.
“I’m looking forward to extend the business, not only our communities, but to other communities,” Gordon Beardy said. “Competition is healthy; competition benefits communities.”
Cargo North is a one-year-old alliance company to North Star Air, which began services in 1997 as a floatplane service based in Pickle Lake. North Star Air currently provides charter, passenger and freight/cargo services with a vision to provide the best possible customer experience throughout their entire journey.
“On a typical airline, if you want the best fare, you fly two weeks from now and you get the best fare,” said Frank Kelner, who took over ownership of North Star Air about 16-17 months ago. “What our experience is is that (our customers) want their best fare tomorrow. Typical movement up north is very rapid, you know with health issues and other issues. When they call today, they want to travel tomorrow and they just want the best price right out the gate.”
Kelner said being on time is also important in the airline industry.
“We do everything we can to be on time,” Kelner said. “That means a lot to them because they do have schedules and stuff to do when they get down to Thunder Bay or wherever.”
Kelner said his airline is focused on providing services to Muskrat Dam and Sachigo.
“Round Lake has been very supportive to the program because we overfly them all the time,” Kelner said. “Obviously it helps them as well, so we offer Round Lake as well at this time as far as servicing.”
Kelner said the airline currently offers flights to Sioux Lookout but plans are underway to offer flights to Thunder Bay.
Cargo North currently operates two Basler BT-67 aircraft and North Star Air operates four Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.
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