Fewer flights cut travel options for Grise Fiord residents
Last month, Unaalik Aviation cut regular service between Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay and Resolute Bay, as well as a direct flight from Resolute Bay to Cambridge Bay.
The reduced service especially affects residents in Grise Fiord, Canada's northernmost community, which relies on Unaalik Aviation flights out of the community to Resolute Bay twice a week.
Previously, passengers from Grise Fiord could connect from Resolute Bay to Cambridge Bay or Pond Inlet, and on to other Nunavut communities.
Now, those passengers must pass through Arctic Bay or Iqaluit to make connections elsewhere, resulting in long, complicated and costly trips elsewhere.
Grise Fiord Mayor Meeka Kiguktak called the reduced service a "big loss," saying the change reminds her of old times, when residents travelled only once or twice a year to share news with family members in other communities.
"We are fortunate to have our telephones to give them long-distance calls right now, but to meet them, it's almost going to be impossible to do," Kiguktak told CBC News.
Unaalik Aviation owner Jimi Onalik said he regrets having to remove the community flights, but he said those routes were marginal — they attracted only a few passengers — and the airline has no government contracts to help cover costs.
"We did give it a good shot, and it just didn't seem to work out."
Onalik said the current economic climate hasn't helped the airline's situation, as melting markets have hurt Nunavut's mining exploration industry and Unaalik Aviation's charter flight business.
The airline will use eight planes for charter flights in Nunavut, which is half the number it used last year.
"We've had to reevaluate all of our business since the stock market collapsed," he said.
"We've had to shut down two of our bases, and we've laid off people in the last three months, and we've scaled back a lot of our operations."
Perhaps of some consolation to passengers travelling from Grise Fiord is the fact that the airline is working on adjusting its schedule so passengers heading to Iqaluit would not have an overnight layover in Resolute Bay, Onalik said.