Perimeter Aviation (PAG, Winnipeg International) has committed to resolving complaints by Manitoba First Nations communities who claim the airline is not meeting the needs of their communities and want Transport Canada to investigate what they call a monopoly on air transport in Canada's North.

In a statement, Perimeter Airlines CEO and President Joey Petrisor said the company took concerns raised by the Anisininew Okimawin Nation seriously and would work with its stakeholders to resolve their concerns. The Anishininew Okimawin or Island Lake Tribal Council in northeastern Manitoba represents four First Nations communities along Island and Red Sucker Lakes.

"Perimeter Aviation has been serving the North for over six decades. This longevity of service has been achieved through ongoing investment in our infrastructure, continuous training, and by working with and supporting the communities we serve. There have been challenges along the way, with the most recent being the impact of the industry-wide shortage of pilots, aircraft mechanics, and supply chain issues. This has created service issues which Perimeter Aviation is committed to addressing and has made significant strides to improve," Petrisor said in a statement to ch-aviation.

At a news conference last week, four Anishininew Okimawin chiefs representing the Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, Red Sucker Lake, and Garden Hill communities said high airfares, excess baggage fees, and severe delays were creating undue hardship to the fly-in communities. The leaders alleged Perimeter Airlines recently increased rates for travel and baggage without consulting or giving notice, according to reports by CBC and Winnipeg CTV News.

In some cases, delays contributed to health risks since the First Nations rely on the airline for medical transportation, they said. Garden Hill First Nation band councillor Ron Beardy claimed people had died because they couldn't get to a hospital in time. Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said the issues were longstanding and needed addressing.

Petrisor, in a statement, said Perimeter Airlines had invested more than CAD100 million Canadian dollars (USD73.6 million) in its fleet and ground infrastructure to improve transportation for persons with disabilities. The airline had also recently settled a new contract with its pilots' union, which would assist with its pilot shortage. The company also had made substantial investments in its maintenance department and training of technicians. It strived to keep tickets and freight costs as low as possible.

"We operate in challenging environments, and some of the airports we serve are located on islands and are not directly connected to the surrounding communities, necessitating water crossings by boat or automobile. During freeze and thaw periods, these crossings can be treacherous to cross. To address this, we have collaborated with the Chief and Council of the affected communities to restrict flights to daylight hours when helicopter crossings are required, as they cannot operate at night," the airline explained.

Perimeter Airlines operates a fleet of 16 De Havilland Aircraft of Canada aircraft, including ten DHC-8-100s, five DHC-8-300s, and one DHC-8-Q300, according to the ch-aviation fleets module. Merged with Bearskin Airlines (JV, Sioux Lookout) in 2017, the airline operates scheduled passenger services, air ambulance services, and cargo shipping to more than 33 communities in Manitoba and Northern Ontario; and custom chartered flights to any destination in North America.

Meanwhile, Transport Canada informed ch-aviation that allegations of an airline abusing its dominant position should be lodged with the federal Commissioner of Competition; complaints regarding refunds, delays, or cancellations should be lodged with the Canadian Transportation Agency; while passenger protection regulations afforded compensation and standards of treatment.

"Perimeter Aviation, like other Canadian commercial air carriers, is a private-sector company and, as such, makes its own business decisions to remain viable and competitive. The frequency of flights, the services offered, including medivac, and the prices charged by airlines are based on market forces and not government regulation. The Government of Canada is committed to supporting a competitive and viable air sector, including efficient and affordable travel options. Transport Canada continues to work with air industry participants, the organisations that represent them, and other government departments to assess appropriate options to support Canada’s air transport sector generally and provide Canadians with the services they need at a reasonable cost," the authority said.