About Wasaya Airways LP

Imagine the quantities of food, clothing, hardware, building materials, gasoline, heating fuel, boats, motors, snowmobiles, medical supplies, school and office supplies that are required to meet the needs of over 25 communities with populations of 500 to 4,000 people. Now imagine having to air transport all of the supplies in to these communities whom do not have road access to southern markets, suppliers and manufacturers.

Enter Wasaya Airways LP. Incorporated by Wasaya Corporation (now Wasaya Group Inc) in 1989 for a requesting group of Northwestern Ontario First Nations, whose purpose was to acquire controlling interest in what was known as Kelner Airways. In 1993, the Kelner Airways name changed to Wasaya Airways Limited. By this time the Wasaya Corporation had purchased 75% of the Kelner Airways common and preferred shares. In the fall of 1998, Wasaya Airways purchased the remaining common shares and this enabled Wasaya Corporation to hold 100% ownership of Wasaya Airways LP, thus making it 100% First Nation owned.

The current First Nation owner communities of Wasaya Airways LP are:

  • Bearskin Lake First Nation
  • Fort Severn First Nation
  • Kasabonika Lake First Nation
  • Keewaywin First Nation
  • Kingfisher Lake First Nation
  • Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation
  • Muskrat Dam First Nation
  • Nibinamik First Nation
  • Pikangikum First Nation
  • Sandy Lake First Nation
  • Wapekeka First Nation
  • Wunnumin Lake First Nation

Wasaya means “rising sun” in the Oji-cree dialect and the logo of Wasaya Airways, which depicts a sunburst with eight sunrays, representing each of the original owner communities.

Business History of Wasaya Airways

In the late 1980’s Wasaya Airways expanded from a floatplane operation to a turbine fleet operation. The focus was charter and freight business which was centered out of Pickle Lake, Ontario, with the administration offices located in Thunder Bay.

In 1995, Wasaya Airways expanded into Scheduled Passenger Service, while still maintaining the charter and freighting business. In 1999, Wasaya Airways transitioned the Scheduled Passenger Service into a Scheduled Charter Service concept. This allowed Wasaya Airways to fully concentrate on its core business: the Cargo Operation and Passenger Charter Service.

In July 2000, Wasaya Airways LP, as part of its restructuring process relocated and centralized its administration offices, including Flight Operations, Maintenance and Charter Sales to new premises at the Fort William First Nation. 

Since 2001, Wasaya Airways has successfully gained new partnerships with various organizations with the purpose of providing contract transportation services. The services offered range from providing transportation to employees to their work sites in First Nation communities to flying in tourists to enjoy a week’s stay at a fishing lodge. 

In June 2001, Wasaya Airways and Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) entered into an agreement to provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective air transportation to students, families and NNEC Staff. The Air Delivery Unit (ADU) was formed to organize and coordinate all First Nation students’ travel through charter and scheduled service bookings. Subsequently in 2002 and 2003, the ADU has been awarded contracts with Tikinagan Child and Family Services, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), and Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services to provide for their specific travel needs.

In September 2002, Wasaya Airways acquired the Kelner Pilatus Center Hangar at the Thunder Bay International Airport and in turn centralized the Maintenance department and personnel. The Wasaya Center is not only utilized as a maintenance facility, but also as a departing station for our charter flights and contract charter customers.

In July 2003, Wasaya Airways purchased some of the Northern Assets of Bearskin Airlines from Sioux Lookout and Red Lake north. This saw Wasaya Airways enter back into the Scheduled Passenger business with service to 21 First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario.  The expansion also added additional aircraft to Wasaya’s already modern and state-of-the-art passenger fleet and provided 85 additional employees to Wasaya Airways.

In April 2018, Wasaya Airways, owned 100% by 12 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario entered into an agreement with the Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) whereby EIC recapitalized Wasaya and the Wasaya shareholders exchanged a portion of their interests in Wasaya for shares of EIC. This partnership vastly increases the level of service in Northern Ontario and benefits customer's in their communities.
The enhanced level of service in Northern Ontario will benefit the people in our ownership communities as well as those in the non-ownership communities we serve. Partnering with EIC is as a natural fit. They understand aviation, servicing the North, and  of utmost importance they have a great history working with First Nations across Canada to provide quality air service to these communities.
Exchange Income Corporation brings multiple airlines of similar size and scope with the ability to enhance Wasaya's operation.