Saskatchewan airline connects to Rankin, Baker

Up, up, and away. To the Kivalliq, pronto


A Saskatchewan-based airline launched a route into Nunavut this past Saturday in an effort to capitalize on the growing traffic of mining companies between the two regions.

Pronto Airways, based in Saskatoon, will fly to Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake once a week, arriving on Saturdays and departing Sundays, said Dennis Baranieski, the company's vice-president of business development.

Many of the resource companies who travel between Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan also have business interests in Nunavut, he said.

"It's really just an extension of what we're providing for services in far-northern Saskatchewan … into Nunavut," Baranieski said in a telephone interview.

Flights originate on Saturdays from Saskatoon with stops in Prince Albert and five communities in the province's far north, before heading to Rankin Inlet and Baker Lake. Return trips leave the next day starting in Baker Lake. Tickets are $1,200 each way.

The plane, a Beechcraft B 1900, usually seats 16 passengers with room for more than 900 kilograms of cargo.

Saskatchewan's resource-based economy is red-hot, and Saskatoon, population 230,000, is now Canada's fastest-growing city. It's also a hub for potash and uranium mining, and uranium giants Cameco and Areva both have headquarters there.

"Saskatoon is probably the resource capital of the world now," Baranieski said.

Barry McCallum, Areva's director of Nunavut affairs, said his company will make extensive use of the new route to travel between Saskatoon and Baker Lake, 80 kilometres from its Kiggavik uranium deposit.

At four hours, the Pronto flight saves Areva staff at least eight hours in travel time, compared to their usual route through Winnipeg.

"We'll use it a lot," McCallum said. "It'll be a similar cost or a savings, with a great savings in time. Four hours versus 12: we always have something better to do with that eight hours."

Areva plans to use the Pronto flight for cargo too, but still plans to book its own charter flights once a week, leaving Baker Lake on Mondays, McCallum said.

The three-year-old company also focuses on serving passengers in the remote First Nation communities near which mining projects are often located, Baranieski said. The airline is part owned by a consortium of Saskatchewan First Nations.

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