Air Greenland wants to lure more Nunavut travellers to Nuuk
“This should be the new Ottawa”
NUUK — Air Greenland’s new scheduled air service from Nuuk to Iqaluit, which started June 15, was supposed to serve business travellers.
But more tourists and visitors than business travellers have taken the two-hour flight this summer, said Air Greenland’s chief communications spokesperson, Christian Keldsen.
“The other day I had a lady write to me to say thank you, saying I haven’t seen my mother in eight years. She came over to Iqaluit [from] Sisimiut to see her. That’s just one of many stories we’ve had,” Keldsen told Nunatsiaq News during a recent interview in Nuuk.
To fill its 34-seat Dash-8 aircraft over the last weekend in July, Air Greenland ran its second seat sale for the return flight. As a result, people filled the plane when it left Iqaluit on July 27, with most returning home from Nuuk to Iqaluit July 30, after a long weekend in Greenland’s capital city.
Nuuk is “Iqaluit’s Las Vegas” and people should take advantage of the flight when they can, said Gayle Kabloona, a policy advisor at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., who bought her ticket during Air Greenland’s seat sale.
“I think this should be the new Ottawa,” added her friend Debbie Purvis, as she and Kabloona waited for their flight home at Nuuk’s international airport.
Regular round trip flights for a weekend in Nuuk cost about $1,800, but with the seat sale, which may or may not happen again, Keldsen said, the cost fell to $600.
But even before the sale, Air Greenland saw a 37.5 per cent jump in volume.
“It’s been going quite well. June was good month, we came out with a better result than expected. The thing is that we had more passengers than we anticipated. But we haven’t had the passengers that we were expecting,” Keldsen said.
Air Greenland was attracted to the route because oil and mining exploration is set to take off in Greenland. But the long process of receiving permits from Greenland’s mining department meant fewer exploration companies from North America were ready to travel to Greenland this summer, Keldsen said.
The new service is a time-saver: it now it takes less than six hours to get from Ottawa to Nuuk under one booking through a code-sharing deal with First Air.
And the flight from Nuuk takes about an hour and 45 minutes — a fraction of the time it used to take for travellers from Nuuk, who would have to travel for two or three days via Iceland or Denmark to North America
But with business people not lining up for seats, Air Greenland has offered sales and advertised to fill its aircraft. The airline would like to draw more Nunavummiut to go shopping in Nuuk where a new $100-million shopping mall opened July 27.
More business-related seats are, however, finally being sold, he said.
“So far, looking forward, it’s looking good. We’ve sold more than we’ve been hoping for, for the rest of the season,” Keldsen said.
But Keldsen is still feeling the heat from other businesses eager to draw in customers from North America.
“In order to grow Air Greenland and hence the other companies here, we need to bring people in whether they’re tourists, oil or minerals, or anything else, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a matter of adding volume,” Keldsen said.
Marketing manager Nicolai Jacobsen at the Hotel Hans Egede, Nuuk’s largest and only four-star hotel, is one of those hoping Air Greenland’s new route can bring in more visitors. He said until now, he hasn’t seen an increased number of bookings at his hotel.
“We do hope that the tourist agency within the Air Greenland group will make an effort on the regional market in Iqaluit in order to attract more visitors from the area,” Jacobsen said. “However, it does call for a long and persistent effort.”
Jacobsen is focusing his attention on business ventures between Canada and Greenland for more growth.
“The possibilities of doing business in Greenland, and business between Canadian and Greenlandic organization, are very attractive at the moment,” Jacobsen said. “[Nuuk] is getting better in relation to meetings, conferences and the demands from business travelers.”
The scheduled flights end Sept. 3, but Air Greenland’s 11-week trial period this may also extended if the demand is there, said Keldsen.
It’s looking good for renewing the route for next summer, he said.
This summer marks the first time in more than 10 years that you can travel from Iqaluit to Greenland.
In 2001, First Air stopped their weekly jet service between Iqaluit and Kangerlussuaq. Air Greenland then looked at starting up a route between Nuuk and Iqaluit in 2010, but those plans were dropped.
David Murphy recently visited Nuuk as a guest of Air Greenland.