For many of Canada’s most isolated northern communities, regular air service is an essential lifeline to food, fuel and critical supplies. Pandemic or not, they rely on aircraft for their very survival.
It’s a responsibility that Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) doesn’t take lightly. As a publicly-traded company with a diverse portfolio of holdings, EIC owns a total of eight air operators located across the country, including Perimeter Aviation, Calm Air, Custom Helicopters, Keewatin Air, Moncton Flight College, PAL Airlines, and partner operators Wasaya Airlines and Air Borealis.
In total, EIC flies more than 200 aircraft, many of them serving about 50 of those remote fly-in communities scattered across the Canadian North. The company’s combined fleet ranges in size from a Diamond DA20 single-engine training aircraft to a twin-engine ATR 72 turboprop.
While the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions have reduced the frequency of EIC air operators’ flights, they continue to serve all of their regulator destinations.
“With our moral obligations to the markets we serve, stopping flying wasn’t even on the table,” said David White, EIC’s executive vice-president of Aviation. “Without us there would be no access.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual.
Instead of daily service to remote destinations such as Lac Brochet in northern Manitoba, EIC operators have cut back to several flights a week, moving essential goods and personnel.
They are working with local First Nations, government and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing and safety of their staff as well as the communities they serve, which have limited healthcare resources.
White said the company’s coordinated response to the pandemic is the result of its “strong, independent companies” coming together to develop a correlated plan that focuses on best practices and regular communication. Thrice-weekly conference calls between White and the presidents of all EIC subsidiaries allow the group to share experiences and brush up on the latest recommendations from authorities.
Before each province and territory had introduced their own policies, EIC had already implemented early guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), including passenger health checks. The group’s medevac operators contributed expertise that led to the implementation of temperature screening and social distancing inside terminals. EIC also adopted socially distanced boarding procedures and, where practical, distanced seating on its aircraft. Commissary is no longer available…
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