Nunavut blizzards ground air travel in Kitikmeot, Kivalliq regions
First Air and Canadian North wait for storms to clear before week’s end
Blizzards grounded air travel in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions of Nunavut, Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, and the territory’s two major airlines say flights might not get off the ground again until Friday, Jan. 9.
Canadian North managed to land just one flight at Kugluktuk, Tuesday, Jan. 6, before blizzard conditions blew into the Kitikmeot and wiped out flights to and from the entire region this week.
All airports of the region were closed Jan. 7, as was the High Arctic airport in Resolute Bay, to the north, according to First Air.
The airport closures could continue to Jan. 8 as well, “but that’s up to the airport authority,” Anubha Momin, spokesperson for First Air, told Nunatsiaq News.
Manager of communications for Canadian North, Kelly Lewis, went further to say weather forecasts for the Kitikmeot suggest blizzard conditions could continue until Jan. 9, and added that passengers who expect to travel Jan. 8 should call their airline for updates.
Both airlines typically put their grounded passengers’ flights off to the next available flight.
Even so, “we do recommend that any passengers travelling with us, if their flight is cancelled, to check with us to make sure we’ve got them booked,” said Lewis.
Both airlines also grounded flights in and out of Rankin Inlet after blizzards hit the Kivalliq region, Tuesday afternoon, at about the same time as in the Kitikmeot region.
Lewis said weather forecasts show the Kivalliq is “supposed clear up Thursday evening or Friday morning,” as in the Kitikmeot.
“The weather in the North can change so quickly,” Lewis said, which is why passengers shouldn’t make any assumptions about their flights without first checking.
Neither airline said, Jan. 7, that they would have to add flights to their schedule to relieve the backlog of passengers.
“That’s something that we might do, in situations where things drag on,” Lewis said.
In the first two days of the blizzard conditions, Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, First Air reported it cancelled no fewer than 11 flights in both regions, which affected more than 220 passengers.
Canadian North cancelled four flights in the Kitikmeot, and a total of 13 stops in communities in the same two days, Lewis said. The airline’s flights to Rankin Inlet run Mondays and Fridays, and haven’t been affected.
Lewis said his airline is equipped to relieve large backlogs of passengers to Cambridge Bay on Friday and Sunday, when it runs its largest passenger plane — a Boeing 737 — to the community.