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Air Greenland will use the Dash-8 for its new Iqaluit-Nuuk route, which runs from June 18 to Sept. 3. - Photo courtesy Air Greenland

New Iqaluit-Nuuk flights in summer

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 23, 2012

Nunavummiut hoping to visit Greenland will be able to save a lot of money and time this summer after Air Greenland announced plans to run an 11-week seasonal route between Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland, from June 18 to Sept. 3.

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Nunavummiut will be able to travel to Nuuk, Greenland this summer for a fraction of the current price after Air Greenland announced a Monday and Friday flight schedule that will run from June 18 to Sept. 3. - photo courtesy of Martin Rasmussen

Flights will run both ways Mondays and Fridays for about $750 each way, chief commercial officer Christian Keldsen said Jan. 18.

"I am so happy to hear this news," said Apex filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who once spent $2,500 for a seat on a charter to Nuuk. Until now, commercial flights have cost in excess of $5,000 as travellers have had to go east and stop in either Denmark or Iceland while travelling between Iqaluit and Nuuk.

"There are many, many times I would have travelled there but couldn't afford to take the ridiculously long way around, even though Nuuk is actually so close to Iqaluit," Arnaquq-Baril said from Tromso, Norway, where she is showing a film in the Tromso International Film Festival.

The announcement creates an opportunity to include Inuit from Greenland in Arnaquq-Baril's work.

"I know it will really make a difference to the projects that I am working on this year," she said. "We are in the middle of planning all kinds of artist collaborations with Greenlanders right now, hoping to make some big statements about seal hunting and to get as much media attention as possible on this issue in Europe this coming year."

Former Iqaluit resident and current Greenland MP Aleqa Hammond visited Nunavut's capital last year as a member of the country's foreign affairs committee. Compared to Air Greenland's $750 direct flight, which will require only one hour and 45 minutes of flight time, Hammond's Nuuk-Kangerlussuaq-Reykjavik-Boston-Toronto-Ottawa-Iqaluit trip took four days and cost about $3,000 each way including hotels (13,500 krone one way for the flight plus 1,200 krone per night).

"It was one of the most expensive trips we've ever done as a committee," she said. "But if you see the distance between Nuuk and Iqaluit, it was the shortest trip ever."

There has not been a scheduled connection between Nunavut and Greenland since the airline ended its route in 2001. The former minister of foreign affairs for Greenland welcomed news of the renewed link.

"We have a lot of catching up to do with each other," Hammond said. "There will be a lot of traffic back and forth, and a lot of workers and people travelling to Greenland because of our minerals and resources. Also, Greenland has a mining school that many Nunavummiut can benefit from.

"Relations at the professional and cultural level will be stronger than before," she added. "I have wanted to come to Nunavut to visit my friends and show it to my family as well. Up to now, it has been impossible."

Tourism was not mentioned in Air Greenland's Jan. 18 news release announcing the route; the main priority is linking "business passengers from the field of oil and mineral research," the company stated.

To accommodate this market, the choice of Iqaluit as a hub allows for same-day coast-to-coast connections from Vancouver to St. John's. The trip from Nuuk to Ottawa would take only six hours, Keldsen said in the release.

Air Greenland's Dash-8 can accommodate up to 34 passengers. If the demand is strong, Air Greenland will consider extending the season, according to the company.

"I just hope that the airline gives enough time for this market to develop," Arnaquq-Baril said. "I know there have been a lot of Iqaluit-Nuuk charters already this year, and more planned. I will be surprised if this route does not do well."

Going forward, she hopes for more east-west routes through the North to connect Nunavut to the rest of the Arctic world.

"We Inuit have been split up by the various countries that colonized us, and it would be so nice to break down some of those artificial barriers. It's really a positive thing for us to be able to learn from each other's successes and failures, and the ability to go see each other is a great step toward making that easier to do."

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