Tireless lobbying led to Iqaluit-Greenland air link revival
“I’ve been lobbying to bring this back for over 10 years now. It's really great news."
When Kenn Harper heard that Air Greenland was re-launching scheduled flights between Nuuk and Iqaluit this June, the Iqaluit businessman said he was “ecstatic.”
Harper, who serves as Nunavut’s honorary Danish consul, has visited Greenland almost every year since the early 1970s.
But those trips became more difficult and time-consuming after 2001, when Air Greenland and First Air stopped their shared weekly jet service between Iqaluit and Kangerlussuaq.
“I’ve been lobbying to bring this back for over 10 years now,” Harper told Nunatsiaq News. “It’s really great news.
“Now I hope it works.”
Air Greenland announced plans this week to start a trial run June 18, operating twice-a-week flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk on Mondays and Fridays until Sept. 3.
Air Greenland says it will consider extending the season if there is sufficient demand.
But that will depend largely on the support the air link receives on the ground, Harper warns.
While many Nunavummiut have family connections in Nuuk and throughout Greenland, the air link is expected to cater mostly to a government and business clientele.
“I think people, government and industry need to move away from using charters,” Harper said. “Both (Greenland and Nunavut) governments have expressed interest in getting this link established. It’s important they support the route, or it will defeat its whole purpose.”
In recent years, both the Nunavut and Greenland governments have expressed interest in increasing bureaucratic and cultural exchanges, as well as improving access to Iqaluit’s Arctic College and Ilisimatusarfik, Greenland’s university.
Harper hopes support is strong enough to establish at least a regular summer air link, but ideally, one that operates year-round.
Heather Daley, the executive director of the Alianait arts festival, has grown accustomed to booking charters to bring Greenlandic performers to Iqaluit to perform at the festival and at other cultural events.
The absence of a regular flight has actually been a benefit to the festival’s modest budget, she said, since Alianait uses the income from the extra charter it sells to help pay for those artists’ travel costs.
Alianait is usually able to sell return seats for about $1,500, she said (roughly the same price Air Greenland plans to charge for a return Nuuk-Iqaluit ticket, before surcharges.)
“The fact that there may now be a direct flight could be good news for us,” Daley said, adding that it would take a lot of careful planning to work around flight schedules.
Daley also hopes Air Greenland will also consider sponsoring the festival, to help cut artists’ travel costs.
“I think it the long run, it would be fantastic,” she said.