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A Perimeter Aviation plane is loaded with food and supplies to be transported on Shamattawa, Man., on Friday. (Jill Coubrough/CBC) The chiefs who represent 30 northern First Nations are considering ending Perimeter Aviation’s near-monopoly of their air service in light of an "exceedingly poor level of customer service" from the airline.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak issued a statement Thursday evening outlining discussions held during its recent annual general assembly to explore partnering further with -owned air services such as Missinippi Airways, which is owned by the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.

"The significant inconvenience experienced by passengers and lack of detailed timely information provided to MKO and the MKO First Nations raised questions about the commitments of MKO and the MKO First Nations to exclusively support Perimeter Aviation and Calm Air," read part of the statement, pointing to the service disruptions which occurred late last year.

Last December, Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson called for an apology from the airline after numerous delayed flights resulted in over 100 people in one northern community missing medical appointments or having them cancelled because of delays.

In the same community in the first nine days of December, there were 67 more missed appointments, she told CBC News.

The company attributed the backlog to "weather cancellations" and a poorly-timed decision to take advantage of the weather delays to undertake routine inspections.

Carlos Castillo, the company’s vice-president of commercial services, told CBC News last week the inspections took longer than anticipated.

"With the benefit of hindsight, we should have anticipated the need for additional capacity and brought it in sooner than we did," he said in a prepared statement. "However and as a result, we committed to permanently increasing our capacity and have since done just that by adding two large aircraft."

The release says MKO is looking to develop a draft framework air services agreement for use between other air services providers who wish to operate in the region, as well as for use with Calm Air and Perimeter, both owned by Exchange Income Corporation.
The statement noted delegates at the assembly expressed "concern and dissatisfaction" with the continuing delays in passenger, cargo and other service issues with Perimeter. ‘They do whatever they want’

Wayne Colon has experienced those service issues first-hand. Oxford House resident Wayne Colon says he welcomes competition after a spat of bad experiences with Perimeter. "It’s gone down quite a bit from the way it used to service our community," the Oxford House man said. Colon estimates he flies Perimeter at least once a month.

"It’s continuous delays, one after the other," he said. "There’s always problems with overbooking."

Maintenance issues have also caused delays, according to Colon.

"In the last month and a half, or so, in Oxford House, the planes, they couldn’t close the door. The back door where they put the bags and everything, all the freight, and they had to get another plane to come pick up the passengers," he said.

Colon says nearly a dozen passengers bound for Gods Lake Narrows on June 3 were forced to overnight in Oxford House.

"We have an old folks’ home over there, a residence, and I guess they had a few spare rooms there, so some of the people stayed there, and other people stayed with people they knew from the community."
On June 6, Colon’s mother and daughter were stranded in Thompson for hours."They were supposed to leave Thompson at 4:45 p.m., they were called and they were told the plane was delayed til 8:45 p.m. That’s all they were told."But the plane didn’t leave for hours and they didn’t land in Oxford House until two in the morning.Upset, Colon called […]

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