Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit January 10, 2018 - 10:20 am

Passengers land in Iqaluit with only the clothes on their backs

To catch-up on cancelled flights, First Air delays luggage by 24 hours

A weekend storm in Iqaluit means many holiday travellers are late getting home this week, and lots of passengers are arriving without luggage. (FILE PHOTO)
A weekend storm in Iqaluit means many holiday travellers are late getting home this week, and lots of passengers are arriving without luggage. (FILE PHOTO)

It’s been a week of weather-related travel hold-ups for Iqalungmiut, for those in the city and for those away from home.

While Iqaluit residents were mostly back on track as of Tuesday, airline passengers scheduled to return to Iqaluit over the weekend are only just getting to town.

And many arrived with only the clothes on their backs.

To get as many people home as quickly as possible, passenger luggage has been purposely delayed on First Air flights, with a tentative promise that the bags will come 24 hours later.

“We understand that it’s not always an easy situation for passengers when weather conditions hit like this,” First Air spokesperson Dan Valin said.

“We also understand that the priority for many of the passengers is to be able to return home and to return to normal operations as quickly as possible, both from a professional standpoint and from a personal standpoint,” he said, likely speaking of jobs and family, as well as pets and houses that have been left with sitters.

In an effort to get people home fast, the daily First Air passenger flight is being packed to its 160-person capacity, to meet the backlog of passengers who missed the cancelled weekend flights.

“We’ve had full flights on that aircraft yesterday and today,” he said.

Since only some passenger luggage arrived, this caused quite the crowd of travellers around the luggage corral on Tuesday.

All of them were asking the same questions about baggage arrival, pick-up times and the treatment of perishables.

Valin said the plan is to get delayed luggage delivered on the next available flight.

Since this could create a domino effect of delayed bags for days, extra space is being made for passenger luggage on regular cargo flights.

“We have a scheduled cargo freighter that goes into Iqaluit and that’s going to carry some luggage as well as the regular cargo shipments, to be able to help on the backlog,” he said. “Normally we don’t put luggage on the freighters, as we prioritize cargo.”

Besides the blizzard and full holiday flights, the luggage holds-ups also come from the added amount of luggage being checked by First Air passengers, Valin said. 

“Passengers that travel north take a lot of luggage with them. It’s a higher volume than normal at times and we can’t necessarily bring the luggage on the same flight.”

For those passengers travelling on to other communities, Valin said the airline will make efforts to get bags delivered when possible.

“First Air is committed to limiting the impact as much as we can on all passengers.”

As for flights cancelled over the weekend to and from Nunavut communities, he said luggage delays were less of a problem in that area and those flight schedules are getting back on track now.

“A blizzard is a blizzard, it’s bad no matter what. Obviously safety is the thing that’s important for everyone,” Valin said.

Canadian North was not immediately available for comment.

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share