Direct flights between Iqaluit and Sanikiluaq take off
Sanikiluaq mayor says he’s happy his community now enjoys more direct ties to the rest of Nunavut
On Monday, an eight-seater Pilatus PC-12 landed through fog and high winds in Sanikiluaq from Iqaluit.
For the community’s mayor, Johnnie Cookie, the flight was an important one — the beginning of a direct scheduled flight between Nunavut’s capital and his hamlet, one of the territory’s most isolated communities.
“I am happy that now we’re able to travel directly to the capital of Nunavut,” he told Nunatsiaq News.
Cookie, and other local politicians, have long asked for a direct flight between Nunavut’s capital and its most southern community.
In August last year, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt said the impacts of COVID-19 further exacerbated Sanikiluaq’s isolation from the rest of the territory.
Residents from Sanikiluaq had to travel to Winnipeg to connect to other communities in Nunavut, and since they were travelling to a southern province, were forced to complete the 14-day isolation at one of the Government of Nunavut hubs.
He asked Transportation Minister David Akeeagok to use federal funding to create an incentive for airlines to fly this direct route.
Arctic Fresh Projects Ltd. partnered with Panorama Aviation and received the government’s contract to offer the flight in April.
It’s a six-month pilot project that was supposed to begin in May, but it was pushed back because of the pandemic. If it’s successful, it can be expanded for an additional 18 months.
The Nunavut government is guaranteeing the purchase of six seats per leg.
The route includes two round trips per week, on Monday and Thursday. A one-way ticket is $1,207.
A spokesperson for Panorama Aviation, a company of about 30 employees, said it has held other contracts with the GN before and is looking forward to adding to its northern experience.
“We’ve been here for a long time and with the same people and the same pilots,” said company spokesperson Audrey Marquis-Drolet, adding that the small-company-feel is ideal for travelling between communities.
“It’s more of a personalized service,” she said.
Arctic Fresh Projects Ltd. is a subsidiary of Arctic Fresh, an Igloolik-based social enterprise started in September 2017 by Rhoda Angutimarik and her partner, Merlyn Recinos, who is also the hamlet’s mayor.
Company spokesperson Ryan Haggan said the main draw for Arctic Fresh was to provide a service that would be beneficial to the communities.
“We looked to fulfill the contract more so as a benefit to the community of Sanikiluaq,” he said.
The first trip on Monday had three passengers on both flights.
Cookie said it was a bit of a slow start that may be due to a high price-point and lack of advertising, but that ultimately he’s happy residents will be able to travel more easily, and access medical care.
Alexandre Lapointe, Panorama Aviation flight dispatcher, said the company believes the demand is there.
“In the past year or two, when we did a flight to Sanikiluaq, there’s a lot of people that called me or told my pilot, ‘Can I embark on the plane, can I take a seat?’” Lapointe said.