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Building a gateway
Iqaluit should be a hub for Greenlanders visiting Canada - consul

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, February 5, 2011

IQALUIT - Iqaluit needs to seize an opportunity to become a Canadian gateway for travellers flying between Canada and Greenland, says Denmark's honorary consul in Nunavut.

NNSL photo/graphic

Iqaluit is one of four Canadian cities that Air Greenland is considering as a gateway between the countries. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL file photo

Last week, Kenn Harper, who also owns Arctic Ventures in Iqaluit, said Air Greenland is considering Iqaluit along with Halifax, St. John's and Goose Bay as possible passenger destinations in Canada.

Air Greenland had such a flight operating between Iqaluit and Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, starting in the mid-1980s, but the flight was discontinued in 2001.

"I've been beating this drum for 10 years," said Harper. "Ever since the route closed, I've been agitating to get it reopened."

Senior management with Air Greenland, with whom Harper has kept in contact over the years, will be visiting Iqaluit later this month to determine its feasibility as a passenger route. Harper will be there to meet them, he said.

"There's no real one segment of the economy that would fill that plane," he said. "Historically ... it was a bit of this and a bit of that. It was some tourism, some government and bureaucrats, student exchanges, crew changes for people working on fishing boats, mining and exploration people.

"These days, I know there would be an oil and gas component to it. It's a number of different market segments that you need to encourage and liaise with."

Iqaluit has a decided advantage over the other candidates, namely, the comparatively short 90 minute flight between Nuuk and Iqaluit, said Harper.

"If they choose St. John's or Halifax, that's a long day on a Dash 8. They would have to run it through Goose Bay in any case for a fuel stop," said Harper.

"One of the advantages that Iqaluit has is that, for scheduling purposes, it's not such a long day."

That being said, only a small percentage of travellers to Iqaluit would be travelling to Iqaluit as their final destination, which is why the airlines that operate out of Iqaluit Canadian North, First Air and Air Canada Jazz need to talk to Air Greenland about establishing Iqaluit as a gateway for passengers travelling from Denmark to cities like Montreal and Ottawa, said Harper.

"We need these Northern airlines to sharpen their pencils and give a very good rate to Air Greenland on a thru-basis for passengers going from Nuuk to Ottawa or Nuuk to Montreal," he said. "We have to have a good and attractive fare quoted."

Hugh Lloyd, project coordinator for Piqqusilirivvik the Clyde River-based Inuit Cultural Learning Centre, which will open to students in the fall said the learning centre would definitely welcome a connection between Iqaluit and Greenland.

For many years, the government of Greenland allowed two students from Nunavut then a part of the NWT to attend classes at Greeland's two folk high schools.

That system could be reinstated if Air Greenland picks Iqaluit, said Lloyd.

"There's no question that if we can get that route reestablished, it's going to be a great help," said Lloyd.

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