Inaugural Air Greenland flight touches down June 15 in Iqaluit
"New and deeper ties between Nunavut and Greenland”
When Air Greenland’s cherry-red aircraft touched down in Iqaluit June 15, it opened a door to the North America that Hans Hinrichsen of the Greenland School of Minerals and Petroleum was eager to use.
Hinrichsen was waiting for a connecting flight to Ottawa moments after the Air Greenland flight hit the tarmac in Canada.
“This is a great idea and we do appreciate it. We are saving money on accommodation, saving money [on flights], saving time,” said Hinrichsen, who was en route to conferences in Newfoundland.
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.
It now takes less than six hours to travel from Nuuk to Ottawa.
“It is a lot easier. I would usually have to go all the way to Denmark, then on to [Canada],” said Hinrichsen.
Hinrichsen is just the kind of business traveller that Air Greenland’s public relations chief Jesper Egede, who also travelled on the inaugural flight from Nuuk, is expecting to see more of this summer.
“It’s a business route mainly, for Greenlanders to have easy access to North America and, of course, specifically for the mining and the oil industry to get access to Greenland,” said Egede.
However, not many people have booked flights to and from Greenland in June as of yet. There were 15 people on the 34-seater Dash-8 plane coming from Nuuk, and only 10 going back to Nuuk from Iqaluit.
But Egede remains optimistic that things will change when more North American businesses receive mining and mineral exploration permits from Greenland’s department of mining.
Air Greenland is open to extending the current 11-week trial period that ends Sept. 3, Egede said, and the airline already has plans to fly the same route next summer.
For the flights, Air Greenland and First Air are using a code sharing system.
This allows travellers originating in Canada to book flights from major Canadian cities to Greenland in a single booking, or for Greenlanders to fly directly to southern Canada, with a connecting flight in Iqaluit.
Flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk are scheduled for Mondays and Fridays, and it costs $922 for a one-way trip booking through First Air.
“This air link forges new and deeper ties between Nunavut and Greenland,” said Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak in a June 15 news release sent jointly from the Government of Nunavut and Greenland. “It provides opportunities to improve trade, business development, and our collaboration in culture, education and language.”
“I’m hopeful this inaugural flight is just the first of what will become a permanent connection,” she said.
Greenland Premier Kuupik Kleist also expressed his glee with the linkage.
“I am delighted that two such close countries are going to be connected through this air link and thereby provide a possibility for people and businesses to connect and trade with each other,” said Kleist.
In February 2011, GN officials and interested business owners made a presentation to a delegation from Greenland on the benefits of using Iqaluit as their point of entry to North America and a link to Nunavut.
Their goal: to renew the 20-year history of commercial flights between Iqaluit and Greenland – 13 years between Iqaluit and Nuuk, and seven years between Kangerlussuaq and Iqaluit.
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.
Meanwhile, many in Nunavut have been waiting to see a regular air service to Greenland.
“It’s very exciting. In 1999 we took a flight to Nuuk back to Iqaluit, and then they stopped service for many years,” said Lavinia Branca Snyder, who was catching the first plane from Iqaluit to Nuuk with her daughter.
“We wanted to make sure we were here when this opened up again and we wanted to go back to Nuuk.”