Greenland strike grounds Iqaluit flight meetings

“This is the closest we’ve ever gotten to this happening.”


A looming strike by Air Greenland flight attendants forced airline officials to scrap a planned meeting this past week with the Government of Nunavut.

But Kenn Harper, Denmark’s honourary consul in Nunavut and a major backer of the push to restore flights between Iqaluit and the Greenlandic capital Nuuk, says those meetings are just postponed, not cancelled.

“This is the closest we’ve ever gotten to this happening,” Harper said Monday. “The strike will eventually end, so we’ll eventually have a meeting.”

But Harper said company officials had to cancel because Air Greenland wanted all management “on deck” in case of a strike.

Harper said airline officials had also planned to meet with representatives from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The meetings were supposed to discuss the possible resumption of scheduled air service between Greenland and Iqaluit, which was cancelled in 2001 after running for 20 years. Air Greenland has expressed interest in resuming service with a Dash 8 making the two-hour flight between Iqaluit and Nuuk.

Travel between the two capitals now consists of a two-day odyssey that forces a travellers to make almost two complete trips across the Atlantic Ocean through the south and the Danish capital of Copenhagen, although Air Iceland runs a seasonal route between Reykjavik and Nuuk.

Harper’s been pushing for the resumption of service since 2001. A Facebook group called Connect Iqaluit and Nuuk had exactly 2,100 members this past Monday.

Air Greenland in turn is interested in seeing what the market demand is like for what would be its first direct flight since it scrapped a money-losing flight between Baltimore, Maryland and Kangerlussuaq. Harper said the airline is eying a passenger-only flight, not the passenger-cargo combi flights First Air used to run.

“There’s no one big user that makes a route like this a success,” he said, adding Air Greenland would have to cobble together ridership from government travel, tourism and crew changes for fishing vessels.

He also said the route would only be a success if Air Greenland could strike a deal with one of the Northern airlines to ensure connections south, because Greenlandic travellers would likely view the route as a Gateway to North America.

“It’s dangerous to think of it as a route to Iqaluit,” he said. “It’s a route through Iqaluit.”

The Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq reported Monday that unionized flight attendants were poised to go on strike June 23 over wage demands. That would force the cancellation of “virtually all Air Greenland flights,” and strand more than 2,000 passengers per day.

In a statement on its website, Air Greenland said negotiations with the union have collapsed and “has no expectations as to the duration of a conflict.”

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