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Air Greenland chairperson optimistic new Iqaluit route will succeed


July 8, 2024  By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News

Air Greenland’s arrival in Iqaluit on June 26 was met with celebrations. From left: Kenneth Hoegh, head of Greenland’s representation in Washington, D.C.; Malik Hegelund Olsen, Air Greenland board chair; Premier P.J. Akeeagok; Greenland Vice-Premier Erik Jensen; and Canadian North CEO Shelly De Caria. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

“It’s been an amazing day,” said Malik Hegelund Olsen, Air Greenland’s board chairperson, as he departed Iqaluit by plane on a sunny Wednesday afternoon last week.

Olsen was part of a delegation celebrating the return of Air Greenland’s weekly direct flights between Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland on June 26.

Air Greenland’s previous route between Iqaluit and Nuuk was cancelled in 2015 due to low ridership.

Now, Olsen says, there is a demand.

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“The need of having more connection in between was important, and we have seen [an increasing] need for that connection, both cultural with art or business or education,” he said.

“The connection for tourism and leisure between those countries will be some of the business.”

People such as Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador to Denmark, and Hanne Fugl Eskjaer, the Danish ambassador to Canada, have described the benefits the flights will provide by bridging the geographical gap between Greenland and Nunavut.

But questions remain about the flight’s sustainability.

Iqaluit Coun. Romeyn Stevenson, who has family in Greenland, said having direct flights to and from Iqaluit will make travel more accessible.

However, he said, Air Greenland and Canadian North need to market the flights to North American and European travellers to help ensure the flights’ survival.

“That’s the amount of numbers and the clientele that will keep this open indefinitely, as opposed to for a short period of time while they’re trying it out,” Stevenson said of the need to appeal to a larger market, in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

“I really do think that there needs to be some work to market that as a real possibility for people who want to get a real taste of the Arctic and also make use of an interesting route that takes them to Europe in a fairly timely fashion.”

Olsen said that’s part of the plan.

He said the partnership between Air Greenland and Canadian North will help connect Nuuk to some of Canadian North’s southern destinations, such as Ottawa.

On top of that, Olsen said tourism is growing in Nuuk, especially now that the Greenland capital’s new airport terminal has opened and begun accepting travellers as it nears its completion.

“We are hoping and expecting that there will be a growth in tourism, both in Nuuk and Ilulissat [the country’s third-largest city] and hopefully also other parts in Greenland,” he said.

“I think the plan of opening this route is something that will support that development, so we have great expectations on developing Greenland as a whole country as a tourist destination.”

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023

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