Airline reduces flights
First Air changes schedule due to low demand

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Sep 27/99) - A schedule change has cut flights out of two Nunavut communities to only one flight to Yellowknife a week.

First Air has cut one of its two western flights out of Resolute and Grise Fiord.

The only flight from the West into the two isolated communities will now be on Saturday, instead of Wednesday and Saturday.

Canadian Airlines completely pulled out of the run this June when it lost its passenger and freight contract with the Cominco mine, on Little Cornwallis Island, to First Air. Since then, First Air is the only airline providing flights.

Mike Olsen, First Air's director of sales, said the airline is cutting the flight because demand is low.

"When Canadian pulled out, we put on an extra flight to take their bookings and ours," he said. "Now that the summer rush is over and we've looked at our bookings, we've realized one flight a week is enough (to Yellowknife.)"

Resolute still has two flights a week to Iqaluit in the East, on Monday and Saturday. That schedule changes to Wednesday and Saturday on Oct. 31. Grise Fiord passengers connect to all southern flights through Resolute.

Ray Richer, manager of the Grise Fiord Inuit Co-op, said the flight cut has caused some major dilemmas for him and his customers.

"We have two flights a week to Resolute and if we land on Wednesday, we have to sit there until Saturday," he said.

Richer said he had to stop buying produce and goods from western Canada and start buying from Quebec.

"Our stuff gets bumped (from western First Air flights) for Cominco and Polaris stuff," he said. "I just can't take the risk with western freight."

Olson said First Air will try to work with both communities to solve any schedule problems.

"As an airline, we're not an essential service, yet we are to these communities," he said.

Dan Leaman, Resolute Bay hamlet's senior administrative officer, said the change in schedule hasn't inconvenienced his community as much, because it gets most its mail and supplies from the east.

"We were having problems with the mail," he said. "You'd have to have all of your mail ready by Monday at noon, or it would have to wait until Saturday."

The change of Eastern flights to Wednesday and Saturday will solve that, Leaman said.