Air Greenland sets sights on reviving Greenland-Nunavut flights
Air Greenland is working on establishing direct flights between Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Nuuk, Greenland, as early as next year, reviving a longtime air link between the two nations.
The airline is looking at leasing or buying a Dash 8 aircraft that would fly over the Davis Strait in order to offer flights once or twice a week to and from the Nunavut capital.
"We see a lot of interest during the summer, especially for the exploration and mining companies. They do a lot of charters between here and Iqaluit," Christian Keldsen, Air Greenland's director sales and marketing, told CBC News.
"Also, there's political interest between the Inuit governments in these regions."
Keldsen said Air Greenland will begin talks to see if it can receive initial subsidies from the Nunavut and Greenland governments.
Partnership fell through in 2001
A link between Nunavut and Greenland existed for about 20 years. But that partnership, between Air Greenland and Canadian airline First Air, fell through in 2001.
Keldsen said the airline wants to fly between Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland's capital city, instead of the old route between Iqaluit and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
"The capital is where the interest is, and from Nuuk also you can connect to other places in Greenland," he said.
"You can connect easily to the south, which you can't do from Kangerlussuaq, and you can actually also connect to the north. So we find ourselves pretty well-positioned here. And also, again, the governments are based here."
'That's where the people are'
Iqaluit businessman Kenn Harper, who has been lobbying for the return of direct flights between the two countries, said he is glad to hear Air Greenland is looking at an Iqaluit-Nuuk route, not an Iqaluit-Kangerlussuaq route.
"I think it's important that the route go to Nuuk," Harper said. "That's where the people are."
Harper was involved when First Air first expressed interest last year in setting up a Nunavut-Greenland route, but he said it may be easier for Air Greenland to establish the air link.
"The logistics of the flights starting in Greenland are a lot easier than a Canadian carrier doing it," Harper said.
"If the [flight] across Davis Strait ... starts in Greenland, it can connect with somebody's jet in Iqaluit, you know, for both northbound and southbound passengers, without anybody having to overnight anywhere."
Direct flight would take 2 hours
Currently, flying between Iqaluit and Nuuk takes two to three days, as travellers connect through various North American cities and Copenhagen, Denmark.
By comparison, a direct flight between the two cities would take about two hours.
Air Greenland is aiming to start offering flights in the summer of 2010 if it can get its financing in order, with 2011 at the latest.
In the remote high Arctic community of Grise Fiord, Nunavut, resident Larry Audlalak told CBC News that bringing back Greenland-Nunavut flights would help circumpolar Inuit connect with each other through travel and possibly the exchange of goods such as traditional Inuit foods.
Audlalak said a direct route would also help tourism in both regions.