Airlines look to revive direct flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland

Canadian North and Air Greenland sign letter of intent to bring back route

Canadian North and Air Greenland have announced plans to work towards re-establishing a direct route betw een Iqaluit and Nuuk. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

By Meagan Deuling
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Canadian North and Air Greenland have announced plans to work towards re-establishing a direct route between Iqaluit and Nuuk.

Chris Avery, the president and CEO of Canadian North, says he thinks an air link between Nunavut and Greenland could boost trade and tourism between the two jurisdictions. (Image courtesy of Canadian North)

The two airlines announced this week a letter of intent, signed earlier this year, to “look for opportunities to work together, and to connect Greenland to Canada,” said Chris Avery, the president and CEO of Canadian North.

Johnny Adams, the executive chairman at Canadian North, made the announcement on Wednesday, Dec. 10, during a virtual presentation at the Greenland 2020 Conference, hosted by the Confederation of Danish Industry in Denmark.

Air Greenland offered flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk from 2012 to 2014, before concluding there weren’t enough passengers to support the route. In 2019, Greenland’s government, which owns the airline, rejected a plan to revive it, opting instead to focus on new airport construction.

Avery isn’t discouraged by the route’s rocky history. With vaccine rollouts, he’s looking beyond the pandemic, towards a revival of the economy and the tourism industry.

“I think this is the right time for it,” Avery said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

An Iqaluit-Nuuk flight could be one of several routes to fly between Nunavut and Greenland, all of which are in early stages, Avery said.

The airstrip in Nuuk, Greenland needs to be extended before 737s can land there. That work is supposed to be finished by 2022.

Ilulissat’s runway similarly needs to be extended, Avery said.

The flight between Iqaluit and Nuuk is one hour by jet, and about two hours on a turbo propeller plane, said a spokesperson for Canadian North.

Flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk are about one hour by jet, or two hours by turboprop. (Screenshot)

When Nunavut went into lockdown in March, Canadian North focused on surviving while continuing to provide critical services to Nunavut, Nunavik and the Northwest Territories, said Avery.

“It feels really good to be looking ahead,” he said.

Canadian North merged with First Air last year, after years of negotiations.

The airline is adding a Boeing 737-700 to its fleet next year.

“As things grow,” it may be used for a direct flight between Toronto to Nuuk, Avery said.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by ilisapirjuaq on

    This is exciting news! I have dreamed of visiting Kalaallit Nunaat Greenland) for a long time. When the only way to get there was via Iceland or Denmark, it seemed impossible, but with a direct link from Iqaluit the trip seems much more feasible. I think Nunavummiut and the people of Kalaallit Nunaat have much to learn from each other, so easier access to face-to-face meetings, once we are able to travel widely again, would help build important relationships. It is good to hear about some forward planning by Canadian North.

  2. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    What this story missed is that there was a direct air route from Iqaluit to Greenland for 20 years – from 1981 to 2001. The first 13 years were by Hawker 748 from Iqaluit to Nuuk, at least once per week, sometimes twice. The next 7 years were by jet from Ottawa to Iqaluit to Kangerlussuaq, once per week. And then, the route was cancelled, for very poor reasons. Let’s hope it comes back for good this time.

    • Posted by Jens Jørgen Egede on

      Exactly Mr. Harper

      Every year from 1993-2000 we went to Canada for vacation, would like to do it again.
      March this year I took the long way from Nuuk to Denmark ,Toronto ,Vancouver to go skiing In Whistler .
      Open the route asap 👍

      Rgds

  3. Posted by Linda Ham on

    I agree whole-heartedly with this. Back in 2014, for professional reasons, a bunch of us (all geologists) flew to NuuK to collaborate with the Greenlandic and Danish geologists about our common geology. This trip was excellent. When it came time to return to Nunavut, I alone could not make it back to Iqaluit directly. I had to travel to Iceland, then Toronto, then home to Iqaluit. Although the whole trip – and seeing Greenland and Iceland was a

    • Posted by Linda Ham on

      Oh my. Working on a small computer at home often leads to this. To finish my story, the whole trip was amazing and I was grateful for this opportunity, but to my mind , there is something wrong with having to travel through the south to get ‘back’ to Nunavut from Greenland via this route. Geoscience colleagues of mine in both Greenland and Denmark have had to travel the world – to make a connection that should be direct.

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    From what I’ve seen everyone over estimates the number of people wanting to travel on this route, over estimates the dollars/kroner people are willing to pay, and under estimates the challenges involved.
    .
    People in Nuuk don’t want to vacation in Iqaluit, they go to southern Canada or the U.S. so you need to make same day connections, at least southbound. Canadian/U.S. travel is cruise ship or adventure, and usually has to be sharply discounted, also very sensitive to delays.
    .
    Throw in Customs clearance and currency exchange rates just to add some complexity. I’m not sure what they are doing to the Nuuk airstrip but the crosswinds and fog probably aren’t going to change.
    There’s also a couple hours of time changes to deal with as well.
    .
    With Covid-19 nothing will happen until 2022 at the earliest. After that, maybe a 10% chance of it happening. Likely it’s just more talk.

  5. Posted by Direct flight? on

    “As things grow,” it may be used for a direct flight between Toronto to Nuuk, Avery said.
    I really hope this includes a stopover both ways in Iqaluit. However if CN price it at closer to $1000 for a 1 hour flight, common sense says the lack of passengers would be hugely due to cost.

  6. Posted by James on

    I flew the Iqaluit/Nuuk route a number of times in 2013. Our entire group (Geologists) were saddened to see it canceled. It was a very efficient way of getting from Canada to Greenland and vice versa. I could leave Nuuk in the late morning and be home to Vancouver by evening, no hotels. I hope to see the route again someday.

  7. Posted by Stig Arne Strokkenes on

    I flew from Nuuk to Iqaluit in 2014. I was a tourist, travelling with a small tent, on my own means, from Oslo, via Copenhagen to Narsarsuaq, then by ship to Nuuk. Spent quite some time in Greenland. After Nuuk, I continued to Iqaluit. Spent a week there, met many wonderful folks. Very nice people, including Canadian Border Service. Then to St. Johns, Newfoundland. A detour to St. Pierre and back to St. Johns. Then continuing to Dublin, Ireland. From there to Cambridge, UK. Finally, from London back home to Oslo.
    The point of my story: I was an independent tourist, paying my way. What really shocked me was the air fare from Iqaluit to St. Johns.
    If you could get some decently priced connections from (and to) Iqaluit to other Canadian hubs, the fare Nuuk-Iqaluit would be no problem and probably generate enough traffic to justify itself.
    Btw, on my visit to Newfoundland in 2019 I met this guy, a fisherman, who was flying St. Johns to Toronto, then to Reykjavik, Iceland, staying over the night on a hotel and continuing on a chartered plane with other crew members to Greenland to replace another crew. Canadian fishing vessel, finding Greenland best place for supplies and provisions and, if I understand correctly, also to un-load their catches.
    The Canadian – Greenland travel links reminds me of stories you hear about Africa: Neighbouring countries have to connect via London or Paris. (Or both.)
    God Jul og Godt Nytt År to everybody. (A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year…)
    Regards, Stig Arne

      • Posted by Stig Arne Strokkenes on

        I bought individual flights, although it would probably have been cheaper to buy a round-the-world ticket. But then I would have missed out Greenland and Canada! My total budget was less than150 Canadian dollars per day, all expenses including accomodation, meals and transport. I did wild camping, stayed at camp-sites, and at hotels of various standards.

  8. Posted by Mark on

    This would be great! I’ve always wanted to go to Greenland and Iceland! They places look so beautiful the towns and the countryside. Please make it happen!

    • Posted by Stig Arne Strokkenes on

      I agree. I did not go to Iceland in 2014 but I have travelled there before, bringing my own vehicle by ferry from Norway to Iceland via the Faroe Islands (also well worth a visit). Nowadays, you have to travel from Denmark if you want to bring your own car to Iceland.
      In 2014, I could have connected (by plane) to Greenland via Iceland, it was just more convenient at that date and time of day to connect throug Copenhagen (from Norway).
      Btw, much of Greenland and Nunavut is like Northern and Western Norway. Different of course in many ways but still I feel at home.

  9. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    Previous lobbying that we did (me personally, me as Honourary Danish Consul, the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, the City of Iqaluit) to convince the airlines in Canada and Greenland to co-operate on starting up this route, stressed that marketing was the key to it. Previous attempts assumed that resource development possibilities in Greenland would provide the passengers – but it didn’t turn out that way. There is no single market that will make this a success. It needs a combination of passengers travelling for 1. adventure tourism, 2. government to government business, 3. student exchanges, 4. individual tourists, 5. family holidays, 6. research, 7. crew changes for fishing boats, 8. oil and gas exploration, 9. mining exploration, and so on and on and on. This needs broad marketing, not just targeting one specific sector.

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