West Wind Aviation, Transwest Air consolidating northern Sask. operations, rebranding as Rise Air

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Two airlines serving Saskatchewan's north have announced they're consolidating their operations under a new name.

West Wind Aviation and Transwest Air will consolidate under one air operating certificate, and will rebrand as Rise Air.

The consolidation is "going to allow us to survive," Stephen Smith, president and CEO of the West Wind Group of Companies, said in an interview with CBC.

"There is no question that COVID-19 put a lot of strain [on us] because a lot of people canceled meetings, which we would provide flights for. The people stop traveling out of northern communities."

The slowdown of the uranium market and mines shutting down also had an effect, he said, with operations down by about 50 per cent.

Transwest Air was already a wholly owned subsidiary of West Wind Aviation, after being purchased by the company in 2016, according to the Transwest website. Until now, however, West Wind Aviation and Transwest Air each had their own operating certificates, said Smith.

Guy Quenneville/CBC
Guy Quenneville/CBC

"There's a duplication of people in one company to have two operating certificates," he said.

"The new cost structure will allow us to not only survive but hopefully look to potentially grow in the future."

According to Smith, the business is now right-sized for the marketplace.

"The employees that we have now are fine, in terms of we don't have to consider reducing anymore."

Ticket prices won't be affected: CEO

The rebranding process will start within the next few weeks, once the regulatory requirements have been completed, the carriers said in a media release.

Ticket prices won't be affected by the consolidation, Smith said, and the number of aircraft will remain the same.

The company picked Rise Air as its new name after receiving 140 different recommendations from employees, said Smith. Another staff member submitted a sketch for the new logo.

"Because we're bringing together two different companies that both have their own cultures and histories, we wanted something new and fresh but also wanted to preserve the legacy of both organizations," he said in a media release.

Until the rebranding process is completed, people will see three different logos, he said.

"We are OK with being patient during this process."

West Wind Aviation, which is First Nations and employee-owned, operates from bases in Saskatoon and La Ronge, and has satellite locations in northern Saskatchewan, according to the company's website.

The West Wind Group of Companies owns Snowbird Aviation Services, Northern Shield Helicopters, and Transwest Air, soon doing business as Rise Air, said Smith.