The Yellowknife Airport, closed to commercial flights since the wildfire evacuation, is expected to reopen on Wednesday, Sept. 6, according to Jeffrey Edison, acting assistant deputy minister with the Department of Infrastructure.
The return flights for evacuees will continue beyond Wednesday, and the department has also been working with staff, companies and organizations to prepare for the re-establishment of commercial flights, said Edison.
However, reopening Wednesday is subject to several variables, such as the availability of airport and contract staff and security considerations.
“As an example on Wednesday… there’s only one commercial flight scheduled and that’s not till 5 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon,” said Edison, “So that in itself has allowed us to say we will remove the restrictions and we’ll consider (the airport) open.”
Edison also said that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has given an exemption for the NWT evacuation flights, whereby people can depart without being screened, but that exemption will not apply for commercial flights.
“We need the CATSA security people in place. We do have some staff already there. We have staff that are flying in today. We have more staff arriving tomorrow,” he said on Monday. “We should be in good shape, and they say that they’ll be ready to go Wednesday at noon.”
Air Canada informed NNSL Media that it has been in contact with authorities throughout the wildfire crisis.
“We are currently finalizing the plan to help people return home, taking into account the current need for airlift to the city and our existing capacities,” Air Canada stated. “We are also making sure that the prices will be under control and will not vary with the sudden surge in demand.”
The airline added that it’s in discussions with the GNWT to ensure essential workers can return ahead of Yellowknife’s official reopening.
According to Tami Johnson, communications manager with the GNWT Department of Infrastructure, essential staff and companies relevant to repatriation flights and/or resuming commercial operations have been added to the “essential list,” and workers are reportedly making their way back to Yellowknife.
“Yellowknife Airport retained its operational workforce throughout the pandemic and has remained functional throughout in support the wildfire activities,” said Johnson. “Airfield maintenance and electrical staff continued to maintain the airfield and a full staff of air rescue firefighters continue to be on site.”