2 Kitikmeot hamlets brace for loss of Canadian North jet service

Former Cambridge Bay SAO worries move to turbo-prop planes will affect tourism, medical travel and access to food

Kugluktuk’s airport will stop seeing Canadian North jets sometime this year as the company moves to use smaller planes to service the hamlet and Cambridge Bay. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two communities in the Kitikmeot will soon lose their Canadian North jet service, because their airports are likely years away from having paved runways.

The company said last April it would stop using its 737-200 jets as they were nearing the end of their life and it would cost too much to extend them. The airline has already pulled one Boeing 737-200 jet from its fleet.

Instead, Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk will be serviced with smaller, ATR 42-500 turbo-prop planes because the runways in those hamlets are unpaved, which can be more damaging to jets.

Former Cambridge Bay senior administrative officer Marla Limousin said she has already noticed a difference since one jet was pulled last year.

“Our level of service has just gone down,” said Limousin, who is now executive director at the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.

“We’ve had empty shelves in the store because (there’s) no food and stuff coming in.”

The company originally said the second 737-200 would be decommissioned as early as this year, but spokesperson Annie Thomlinson said in an email the company hasn’t decided yet when that will happen.

Limousin said when the second jet is decommissioned, it will affect tourism, cargo and medical travel costs.

“There’s only so many seats, right? So (it’ll) delay people from going out,” she said.

The municipality’s priority is to get a paved and lengthened runway, she said, and it’s lobbying the Nunavut government for funding.

Cambridge Bay is growing and needs a reliable airport and planes, Limousin said.

Canadian North declined Nunatsiaq News’s request for an interview, but Thomlinson said ticket and cargo prices for the region will not rise due to the company’s decision to pull its jets.

She said there is at most a 10-seat difference between the turbo-prop planes and the jets.

Meanwhile, in Kugluktuk, deputy Mayor Nadene McMenemy said paving the runways has been discussed at council meetings, but it’s costly and not a top priority.

“Paving the runway would be a very expensive undertaking, and that would need to be maintained all the time,” she said in an interview.

“It would be lovely to have, but we would need more discussion.”

Although the jets are bigger, hold more cargo and fly faster than turbo-prop planes, the community is used to the smaller aircraft and knows Canadian North will keep up service, she said.

“All the way around, the community will miss the jets,” McMenemy said. “It’s just a matter of, it’s nicer to have the jets.”

Two other airlines, Summit Air and Buffalo Airways, also service the hamlet, she said.

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jet lag on

    I wonder if limousine foreseen this Issue coming than why was she not able to act when it would have counted ? They say that talk is cheap ,and people don’t necessarily support ideas, they support results and in the territory we need more results and less talk.

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  2. Posted by Karboneater on

    deputy Mayor Nadene McMenemy said paving the runways has been discussed at council meetings, but it’s costly and not a top priority. “All the way around, the community will miss the jets,” McMenemy said. “It’s just a matter of, it’s nicer to have the jets.”.. Is this Deputy Mayor for real?? Wow.. What a bonehead saying key infrastructure for small communities is not a priority. Next election Kugluktuk try not to vote in “BoneHeads”.

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    • Posted by Bonehead? on

      Nadene does more for Kugluktuk than anyone else in that town. Maybe you hate on her because she’s non-Inuit. I bet you wouldn’t be saying those things if she was an inuit

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    • Posted by Maq-Pat on

      You have $10-20 million kicking around? plus another $100-$200K+ in increased maintenance costs per year FOREVER?

      There are less than 1,500 people in that community… shaving 15 minutes off the flight and a bit more legroom is NOT a priority. We are talking about the kind of money that could potentially feed the whole community for a decade.

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      • Posted by Critical Infrastructure on

        First off the Hamlets do not pay to operate the airports this is a GN responsibility. All runways require maintenance gravel or paved. But the biggest different is the type of aircraft that are able to use gravel. Not all planes are rated for gravel, so this limits the communities options for freight, passenger, medical, and other flight services. This could mean lower cost more efficient aircraft being used by companies to lower the cost of flights in the community. McMenemy also is shooting down all the jobs and contracting that would come with these upgrades, while dismissing critical infrastructure. Alaska has paved runways in the majority of communities, and it has lower food costs, more diversity in aircraft, and a higher frequency of flight options. These runways should be paved by the Federal Government as part of our NATO spending commitment to better support Arctic Sovereignty. F18 and all Canadian Military aircraft should be able to land in every Arctic community, and they need the infrastructure to support that.

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        • Posted by Northern Guy on

          Even if the runway was paved that doesn’t mean that F18s or any other military aircraft could use it. The runway specifications for military aircraft are very precise and paving is not a guarantee that they could be used. In addition runways and airports are functions that were devolved to the Territorial Government at division so how exactly should the Federal government be required to pay for these improvements?

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  3. Posted by Uninformed Comments on

    Deputy Mayor McMenemy give your head a shake….. “would need to be maintained all the time” Just an FYI Deputy Mayor but the current gravel runway also needs to be maintained all the time…… Paved runways have proven to be safer and would reduce maintenance costs for operators. It would also allow them to look at utilizing more fuel efficient aircraft. Maybe just maybe if enough Nunavut communities had paved runways another operator would look to come in and compete against monopoly air! Elected official’s like McMenemy obviously do not understand the big picture of having paved airport landing strips. What an uninformed comment. Do some research before you dismiss it as “It’s just a matter of, it’s nicer to have the jets.”

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    • Posted by Agnes Allen on

      The Hamlet is only worry about the cost, for your information. It would be safer and last longer less spending every year round, upgrading gravel airstrip.I sure would like like to know what’s their priorities are, don’t even let the public know, or ask for Kugluktukmiut’s ideas.

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      • Posted by Paved runways crack on

        Paved runways need to be fixed constantly, way more than gravel. With spring thaw and permafrost they get bumpy and require engineers to check for safety. A paved runway costs way more than a gravel runway, and I don’t Kugluktuk has millions of dollars sitting around either. Alaska native communities have lots of paved runways but also because the US military uses them for routine exercises.

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        • Posted by Inuk Aviator on

          Paved Runways would help all the airlines that serve these communities. Having gravel runway decreases the life of aircraft quicker than paved runways. By Law in maintenance for aircrafts they call cycles for a plane which is how much a pressurized aircraft can take off and land before needing to be inspected. Using paved runways used one cycle as it is one take off and one landing which is a cycle. When an aircraft uses a paved runway they by law have to write it down as two cycles , therefore using gravel runways increases maintenance costs. Not to mention the structural damage the aircraft may encounter on a gravel runway rather than an paved runway. Gravel runways are outdated in aviation and very few new aircraft are certified to land on gravel. If an airline buys a new aircraft that isn’t certified to land on gravel the airline may have to pay for testing and certification for an aircraft to become certified to land on gravel. The government of Canada should be investing in all of Canada’s north to upgrading these outdated runways to the modern era of longer paved runways.

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  4. Posted by Cambridge Bay on

    why are you quoting a former SAO? This has been brought up many times by the community on many occasions. Lets leave it with our community to represent and deal with just like any other issues over all of these years. All due respect to the former but we’ve got this just like we always did. Maybe you should ask the Community.

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  5. Posted by Amazon Jet on

    Amazon needs theyir own jet to deliver goods to Nunavut . They already do this for Iqlauit might as well do it everywhere else too. Ever since people find out about the fake postal codes of Amazon Prime has been the #1 supplier of food and goods for Nunavummiut. Way to go Amazon!

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    • Posted by tuktuborel on

      Gee don’t give away our best non secret money saving freight subsidy.

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    • Posted by Iqaluimiut on

      Amazon has their own airline called Prime Air and yes they have a Hub in Iqaluit but they use Canadian North to ship all their package. The Amazon Hub is also ran by Canadian North. If they wanted to fly up here on their own they would have done that before they set up a Hub with Canadian North.

  6. Posted by Frankly on

    Canadian is the only airline in Canada for Nunavut is what our politicians think .
    Westjet and air Canada exists.

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    • Posted by 867 on

      You forgot a few dozen other airlines too. Air Canada and WestJet likely have zero interest in operating in the north. Most of their destinations are big cities and important hubs. I’m guessing 90% of Canadian North’s business is Medical Travel and Duty Travel, and those are due to GN contracts. And, our politicians definitely know that.

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    • Posted by Common Sense on

      And what makes you think Air Canada or Westjet or any other airline for that matter want to deal in the north? Competition doesn’t always means lower priced fares. When your community has no export of course air travel (cargo or passenger service) is going to be high, prices rise due to fuel surcharge, airport improvement fees etc so many things factor in raising prices.

      But unless the communities start having more export on those flights don’t expect things to lower in price any time soon, start adding in paved runways (Airport improvement) then prices go higher still.

      Don’t ever expect southern airlines to come north, remember when Air Canada pulled out of Iqaluit?

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  7. Posted by George on

    There is nothing at all wrong with having the ATR as the primary cargo/passenger aircraft. An extra ten minutes to get to Yellowknife from Kugluktuk is not a big deal. The turbo-prop is quieter, more fuel efficient and more comfortable than that ancient 737-200.

    The gravel runway in Kugluktuk is very well maintained. Paved runways are not inherently any safer than gravel.

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    • Posted by Cambaymiut on

      Except not all flights are Yellowknife-Kugluktuk, are they? If someone is flying from Kugluktuk to Yellowknife via Cambridge Bay on the ATR, then it’s an extra 10 minutes to Cambridge, then up to an extra 40 minutes to Yellowknife. Also it’s an extra 20 minutes YK to Kugluktuk, not 10. So whether you are from Kugluktuk or Cambridge Bay, you’re arriving in Yellowknife up to an hour later.

      Instead of arriving in Yellowknife between 4 and 4:30, you’re arriving closer to 5 or 5:30. When does the flight head south to Edmonton? 5:05 or 5:25, depending on the day.

      Hope you enjoy spending more overnights in Yellowknife.

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      • Posted by SMH on

        And where do you get your flight times from? Have you actually done the timing for the flights? Last time I saw the ATR fly in replacement of the jet it arrived in Yellowknife on time (4:30), as long as the flight is not delayed out of Yellowknife then the flight should arrive back into Yellowknife on time.

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    • Posted by Kudlak on

      Our airstrip is maintain really well, we’re going back to year 70s and 80s again, most of the people will have to wait longer to get machine delivered, food whatever….

  8. Posted by What’s the big deal? on

    So they are going to be serviced just like most of the other Hamlets in Nunavut, what’s wrong with that? Nakmaktuq. There’s more important things to focus on.

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  9. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    The new ATR 500’s are more fuel efficient than then older ones they replaced. ATR 72’s are being used for cargo. Been nice having them service the region and not having to refuel every stop.

    737’s are like the old style trucks, pigs on gas. Plus they wouldn’t go through the eastern triangle.

    Don’t know why you are quoting Ms Limousin, not like She was ever at work in Cambridge these last few years basically being on a mine type rotational shift and home. Great work if you can force it down mayor and council

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  10. Posted by Mikhangryfortendies on

    Nunavut needs , I repeat needs ! To get out of allowing monopoly.

    Internet, stores , flights in and out .

    Demand more from your Canadian Government, we keep the largest landmass in Canada …”Canadian”

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    • Posted by 867 on

      Monopolies happen because there isnt a large enough population or demand to support competition. There are tons of businesses that would thrive in Nunavut: Licensed mechanics, Hair salons, Taxis, Restaurants, etc… The problem is starting a business requires good work ethic and some level of entrepreneurial ambition. Next, most are not willing to start a business up here because of theft issues, staffing issues, harassment issues, the list goes on. Why do you think so many businesses in Nunavut fail? I can guarantee it has nothing to do with the owner, but instead the support staff needed to ensure the business can grow.

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  11. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    All these armchair engineers making comments about gravel vs. pavement runways as if they know what the hell they are talking about, makes me roll my eyes. Right up there with all the suggestions of other airlines flying up here to compete with Canadian North. We use to have 2 airlines in the Kitikmeot but they merged because the airline industry in the North can barely keep its head above water as it is. Other airlines know that operating in the North is not fiscally beneficial to them otherwise they would have been operating here a long time ago. They are businesses and businesses need to make a profit. They are not social services. If they are not making a profit for their owners/shareholders they will cut services or pack up and leave altogether. The ATR’s are nice planes, better tha the Dash that’s for sure and 10-60 minutes longer on a flight is a far sight better than the all day and night milk run flights from back in the day.

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  12. Posted by Umingmak on

    Simply put – this is an asinine decision by Canadian North that will harm residents of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk.

    Prices for everything will go up. Seats on flights will be harder to get.

    I hope another airline (Maybe Buffalo with their new 737?) step up to fill this gap.

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    • Posted by SMH on

      When was the last time Buffalo had passenger service? Last I recall they lost their passenger carriage license due to safety concerns raised by Transport Canada.

      You complain about the price of tickets going up but fail to realize that but part of that reason is due to running old ass aircraft like the 737-200 which burns so much fuel on the ground. How is it the airlines fault that a plane has reached its life cycle ending? You want the jet to remain in service be prepared to pay more for your plane tickets. Clearly you have no idea of how economics work or you wouldn’t be complaining about a jet no longer flying.

      Oh if you didn’t know the jet Buffalo bought is a 737-300 which is not equipped to land on gravel and will never been seen in Kugluktuk or Cambridge Bay. Buffalo straight up stated it was for the runs between Edmonton to Yellowknife.

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  13. Posted by WestKit on

    Is our hamlet bankrupt in funds as well and the funders neglected to tell us? Decisions are made by staff and voiced by the ones elected.

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    • Posted by 867 on

      Hamlet has nothing to do with the runways, that is Airports (GN). ED&T.

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      • Posted by ForShore? on

        Why is the gn wasting all the monies getting community input if departments make decisions for town?

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    • Posted by 983 on

      Yes your hamlet is broke. You didn’t know ?

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  14. Posted by Jimmy on

    Some of us can remember when the Kitikmeot sked was a DC-3 or an Otter.

    Things are going to get worse in this country and the north in particular as governments realize they can’t keep spending themselves out of hard times.

    Be thankful for what you have. A reduction in service is better than no service at all.

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    • Posted by Passenger on

      Dc3 is world war 2 plane. Everyone got drunk by the time they arrive to Yellowknife so it was check-in to hotel then B- line for the Range . Nobody complained except for the cigarette smoke that filled the whole plane . Hot Meals were always a hit inside the plane and then the air parties start after dinner ! Everyone too anxious nowadays.

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