CGXFA
Topic Author
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:28 am

First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:09 pm

Happy New Year,

This is my first airliners.net post.

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I’m sorry this report won’t be as detailed as I wanted it to be; it wasn’t until we were taxiing that I decided to make a trip report, otherwise there would be terminal pictures and other trip-specific things included.

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I flew north from Ottawa, Ontario to Iqaluit, Nunavut.

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For the Christmas rush, First Air added a second return flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit.

Iqaluit is the same distance and direction from Ottawa as Ottawa is to Miami.

Iqaluit is the capital of Canada’s largest territory, Nunavut. You might be aware of it from manufacturers bringing aircraft for cold weather testing, or the Swiss 777 that diverted last year due to an engine failure.

Nunavut is about five times the size of Germany, with a population half of the seating capacity of Rome’s Colosseum.

Every community is only practically accessible by air, with some freight brought in by ship during the short ice-free summer.

First Air is the largest airline in northern Canada, and recently underwent a brand makeover. They fly Boeing 737-400s and ATR 42-300s and -500s. All runways in the territory, except Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, are unpaved and relatively short.

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This 737-400, C-FFNM, is in an all passenger layout with 156 all economy seats.

The other three -400s are combis; the same conversion Alaska Airlines had, with 72 seats and 4 positions of cargo.

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The jet flights fly into the hub airports to connect with the turboprop flights. The 42-300s have variable combi configurations, with 0, 10, 18, 22, 30, 34, or 42 seats; a change of layout would be done overnight. The newer -500 series are standard with 42 seats.

The main jet routes, Ottawa – Iqaluit or Winnipeg – Rankin Inlet, are daily, while intra-Nunavut turboprop flights vary from daily to as few as four flights a week.

First Air’s competition is Canadian North. They mirror some routes, frequencies, and prices, but fly 737-300s and Dash 8-100s. The two airlines did have a codeshare agreement for about a year, which was widely unpopular before being discontinued in May of 2017.

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Today’s extra flight, First Air 862 was scheduled for a 2:30pm departure, with a 3:10 block-time. It would then turn around and become 7F863, landing in Ottawa 10:15pm.

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I checked-in online and got seat 4F, but even if I hadn’t there was no line-up when I arrived at 12:30. My ticket class allowed one bag at 70 pounds, with higher fares allowing two and three bags. After asking the agent how the flight was looking, she said it’s about 20% full.

After going through security, the gate was equally quiet. The captain didn’t do the walk-around until the posted boarding time. With only 30 or so passengers, boarding was quick and easy. The captain made his announcement, wishing us a happy new year before informing us that we would be de-icing, and that things were moving quickly there so it wouldn’t cause us a delay. We pushed 10 minutes early.

The two flight attendants did the safety demonstration during pushback. After the demo, a lady in the second row had a fit of dry-coughs, so the lead FA promptly poured her a glass of water.

The taxi was short, coming into Bay 3 for de-icing. There are four narrow-body de-icing bays, or two wide-body bays.

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Ottawa’s de-icing provider is Aeromag. They have a fleet of about a dozen one-man trucks; half are open-bucket and half are closed-bucket trucks.

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We took a quick spray of type 1 on the wings and tail before taxiing to runway 32 for a northerly departure.

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The seatbelt sign came off at 10,000ft over the Gatineau hills. The lead flight attendant announced in English and French the time enroute, weather forecast, and onboard service.

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Lunch today would be a choice of beef or pasta; the drinks available are complementary red or white wine and non-alcoholic drinks, with beer and mixed drinks being six dollars (cash only).

I took some pictures of the seats while the meals were being prepared.

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I would guess the seat-pitch is around 34", ± an inch. It's roomy, even with the seat ahead reclined, the armrests easily tuck away, and the trays can slide closer in.

For more legroom, the two exit rows are pretty great.

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The seat pockets contain a safety features card, air sickness bag, and magazine.

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The view was somewhat cloudy, but pleasant. Unfortunately a camera can't capture the true contrast and colours.

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As for legroom, I'm exactly 1 Smoot tall, and with crossed legs and winter boots, it's spacious.

Hot towels were handed out and then quickly collected. One flight attendant handed out the lunch options, with the lead following with drinks.

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I chose beef, which came with vegetables and potatoes. There was also a caesar salad and bread roll on the tray. For drinks, I had a glass of apple juice and a water.

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Lunch was hot and tasty, during which wine refills were offered; I asked for just half a glass of white wine in my now empty apple juice cup.

A few minutes later, the meal trays were picked up.

One flight attendant came by with warm chocolate-chip cookies.

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The other flight attendant then came by with coffee, special coffee, tea, and soft drinks. The special coffee contains Irish cream, coffee liqueur, coffee, and whipped cream.

While this was going on, I took pictures of the front galley and washroom (rear galley pictures were taken later in the flight).

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Pillows and blankets were available upon request, as were regional newspapers. Trash was collected regularly.

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After the meal service, the sidewall lights were turned off, leaving the ceiling lights on. The sunset views were nice and slow; sunset happened in Iqaluit before 2pm.

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There was an excellent trip report on this site done by abrelosojos in 2011 on First Air 955, where he mentioned the crew and meals “made me forget that there was no IFE. I didn’t even miss it.” I would agree; half the flight was occupied with food and drinks. I flew on Air Canada's MAX8 a few weeks prior; the plane is great, as is the new IFE system, but I'd trade quite a lot for a proper meal and friendly service. Streaming to devices, like on WestJet flights without PTVs is coming, but were not installed yet.

Just before top of descent, a water run was offered. The seatbelt sign came on at 10,000ft, and the cabin was quickly secured.

Approach and landing to runway 34 were both very smooth. The ceiling lights stayed on, so the pictures weren’t great.

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During the very short taxi, the lead flight attendant thanked us for flying First Air, informed us that we would deplane from the aft door, the temperature was -26°C (-15°F), and wished us a happy new year.

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The agents are pretty adamant about not taking pictures on the ramp, but it was just a quick walk to the terminal. Baggage delivery didn't take long at all.

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And with that, First Air provided a solid product from start to finish.

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Thanks for reading!
 
Bobloblaw
Posts: 1965
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:15 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:42 pm

awesome....too bad so few passengers. Hopefully they make up for that in cargo revenue.
 
9w748capt
Posts: 1263
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:27 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:32 pm

Wow - brilliant report - I thoroughly enjoyed it! I've always wondered what life is like in those remote northern communities. Are you from Iqaluit? The meal looks fantastic too - plus a cookie for dessert! Seriously just as good if not better than AA's domestic F.

Thank you for sharing!
 
RoySFlying
Posts: 257
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:28 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:47 pm

Wow, what a contrast. I'm used to flying over large expanses of arid lands, shimmering in a heat haze. To see all that snow and ice is unreal.

The light load obviously gave you an excellent opportunity to take plenty of photos. I do hope that loads are better than this in regular operations. With low populations in some remote communities, are the routes subsidised at all?

Thanks for sharing and congrats on your first post.
Roy
 
767747
Posts: 2179
Joined: Wed Jan 26, 2005 10:08 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:24 am

Great report and photos - It looks like you had a good flight with First Air. I'm impressed by the look of that meal - that looks good and First Air must be the last airline in North America offering free meals like this in Economy on short flights.

Thank you for sharing.
I love to fly!
 
SaschaYHZ
Posts: 247
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:41 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:44 am

Always a pleasure reading about trips in the very North of this awesome country....thanks!
 
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hirofumi
Posts: 269
Joined: Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:45 am

I had no idea the service was so great on First Air! Great review and loved your writing style using more photos than words. It's so cold!
 
MHG
Posts: 850
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2004 1:33 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:04 pm

I agree they offered a solid product - but - you paid a solid amount of $$$ for the flight. So, that´s just fair, isn´t it?
Flying is not inherently dangerous but it is very unforgiving in case of carelessness, incapacity or neglect.
 
debonair
Posts: 3205
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:50 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:55 pm

Fantastic TR! Well done, love to read from such exotic places and airlines!

The new livery looks good - but I really do miss the "Frontier-"Motive tails... Unbelievable how good the cabin looked for a nearly 30 year old a/c FirstAir seems to have invested a LOT!
 
CGXFA
Topic Author
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:28 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:19 am

Thank you, all, for your comments and questions.

Bobloblaw wrote:
awesome....too bad so few passengers. Hopefully they make up for that in cargo revenue.

RoySFlying wrote:
I do hope that loads are better than this in regular operations. With low populations in some remote communities, are the routes subsidised at all?


The loads are generally better, this happened to be the second flight of the day, I understand the morning flight was pretty full.

Also, this being First Air's all passenger jet brought the load factor percent down from over 40% to 20%.

The routes are somewhat subsidized by multi-year contracts for medical and government travel; that guarantees a certain amount of business to sustain some routes.

9w748capt wrote:
I've always wondered what life is like in those remote northern communities. Are you from Iqaluit?

SaschaYHZ wrote:
Always a pleasure reading about trips in the very North of this awesome country....thanks!


Haha, I am from Iqaluit. As it's the territory capital, with a few hotels, restaurants, bars, a pool, and a few other facilities, we wouldn't consider Iqaluit a remote northern community. Some places have three or four hundred people, and may be another 1,000 miles north.

hirofumi wrote:
It's so cold!


It wasn't that bad the night I flew in. Since last week, we've had the wind make it feel like -56°C / -68°F, then a blizzard closed everything this weekend.

767747 wrote:
I'm impressed by the look of that meal - that looks good and First Air must be the last airline in North America offering free meals like this in Economy on short flights.

debonair wrote:
Unbelievable how good the cabin looked for a nearly 30 year old a/c FirstAir seems to have invested a LOT!

MHG wrote:
I agree they offered a solid product - but - you paid a solid amount of $$$ for the flight. So, that´s just fair, isn´t it?


The prices are higher than average, for sure. With the northern airlines flying their planes with a relatively low utilization, the high fares are a tradeoff for that dependable, frequent enough service. As for the meals, some passengers may leave a town like Resolute early in the morning to connect in Iqaluit and continue to Ottawa by evening, so I don't think eliminating the meal service is likely. That being said, the meal tray used to be completely full, with another salad-shape container with a dessert (usually cake, depending on the day) with another little cup with cheese/crackers, and a Ghirardelli chocolate square.

Thanks again, I'm glad you enjoyed this trip report.
 
SQueeze
Posts: 284
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:33 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:31 pm

Very well written.

The flight is so empty, no wonder they charge those kind of prices to sustain.
 
SaschaYHZ
Posts: 247
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:41 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:10 pm

CGXFA wrote:
Thank you, all, for your comments and questions.

Bobloblaw wrote:
awesome....too bad so few passengers. Hopefully they make up for that in cargo revenue.

RoySFlying wrote:
I do hope that loads are better than this in regular operations. With low populations in some remote communities, are the routes subsidised at all?


The loads are generally better, this happened to be the second flight of the day, I understand the morning flight was pretty full.

Also, this being First Air's all passenger jet brought the load factor percent down from over 40% to 20%.

The routes are somewhat subsidized by multi-year contracts for medical and government travel; that guarantees a certain amount of business to sustain some routes.

9w748capt wrote:
I've always wondered what life is like in those remote northern communities. Are you from Iqaluit?

SaschaYHZ wrote:
Always a pleasure reading about trips in the very North of this awesome country....thanks!


Haha, I am from Iqaluit. As it's the territory capital, with a few hotels, restaurants, bars, a pool, and a few other facilities, we wouldn't consider Iqaluit a remote northern community. Some places have three or four hundred people, and may be another 1,000 miles north.

hirofumi wrote:
It's so cold!


It wasn't that bad the night I flew in. Since last week, we've had the wind make it feel like -56°C / -68°F, then a blizzard closed everything this weekend.

767747 wrote:
I'm impressed by the look of that meal - that looks good and First Air must be the last airline in North America offering free meals like this in Economy on short flights.

debonair wrote:
Unbelievable how good the cabin looked for a nearly 30 year old a/c FirstAir seems to have invested a LOT!

MHG wrote:
I agree they offered a solid product - but - you paid a solid amount of $$$ for the flight. So, that´s just fair, isn´t it?


The prices are higher than average, for sure. With the northern airlines flying their planes with a relatively low utilization, the high fares are a tradeoff for that dependable, frequent enough service. As for the meals, some passengers may leave a town like Resolute early in the morning to connect in Iqaluit and continue to Ottawa by evening, so I don't think eliminating the meal service is likely. That being said, the meal tray used to be completely full, with another salad-shape container with a dessert (usually cake, depending on the day) with another little cup with cheese/crackers, and a Ghirardelli chocolate square.

Thanks again, I'm glad you enjoyed this trip report.

Well, figured you weren't spending time in Alert ;) Never been to Nunavut, the one Province and Territory I haven't entered yet.
 
c152sy
Posts: 129
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 12:26 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Tue Jan 09, 2018 10:58 pm

Very nice report! From the pictures that 734 looks to be in good condition, especially considering age. The service onboard looks fantastic, although to be fair for the flight price shown on your screenshot of the website I could book two, at a push three return flights from Korea to London and so I wouldn't be too pleased if the service was anything less than fantastic
Somewhere between Korea and the UK.
 
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Ryan h
Posts: 1678
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2001 7:11 pm

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:19 pm

Great report and photos.

That interior looks nice too, the grey seats and the red seat belts are a nice touch. Looks to be in great condition.

Livery is alright compared to their old livery with the paintings on the tail of the 737-200, saw some of those while in Yellowknife in 2013.
South Australian Spotter www.ryanhothersall.net
 
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dabpit
Posts: 745
Joined: Tue May 01, 2012 10:19 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:50 pm

Excellent trip report! I was in YFB but flew Canadian North on the Combi and the service was basically the same. Hopefully one day I can get back up to YFB.
Carpe Diem
 
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CollegeAviator
Posts: 384
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:55 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:12 pm

Lovely flight report! Always awesome to get on a classic plane.... (although the B732 might seen classic to others). I'm sure it felt great to be on such an empty flight and amazing service - private jet almost?!
 
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Vio
Posts: 1517
Joined: Sat Feb 07, 2004 5:23 am

Re: First Air 737-400 Ottawa to Iqaluit

Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:03 am

Nice report. I spent 7 years in the Arctic flying medevacs, 3 of which in Iqaluit. I flew First Air and Canadian North many many times. My dream was to leave the North before the new terminal was in service. It looks like it is now (or is it?). Thanks for the memories. I don't miss the Arctic one bit, but I must say, First Air does offer decent service. Too bad their fares are quite high.
Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.

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