Greenland to get direct air link to Canada?

Embattled Air Greenland is exploring opportunities to start a direct service between Greenland and Canada.

The airline has no plans to open any new routes this year, but hopes to start flying to Canada in 2012 at the earliest, KNR reports.

The airline will later this month send a group of specially selected members of Greenland’s self-rule government on a tour of Canada. The tour will take in Iqaluit, St. Johns, Halifax and Goose Bay — all earmarked as possible Air Greenland destinations.

The Danish consul to Nunavut, Kenn Harper, is a long term proponent of an Air Greenland service to Iqaluit. He is now lobbying Canadian authorities to give the company preferential terms for using Iqaluit airport given the strong cultural ties between Nunavut and Greenland. Harper told CBC news that such a new air route would help the tourist sector, as well as economic ties between Nunavut and Greenland.

Air Greenland enjoys a near monopoly on domestic transport, as there are no roads or railways between Greenlandic towns; but its international service has been dealt an unlikely blow by Iceland’s domestic airline, Air Iceland.

As well as flights within Iceland, Air Iceland has also started operating services to Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Norway with its Fokker 50 propeller planes.

Air Greenland’s problem is that its only international service runs to Copenhagen — a long distance which necessitates the use of the company’s Airbus A330, which can only land and take off from Kangerlussuaq International Airport. As Kangerlussuaq town has just 550 residents, it is necessary for most passengers to take a connecting flight — as well as a connecting flight from Copenhagen if the eventual destination is in North America.

The relatively short distance to Iceland allows Air Iceland to run smaller planes capable of landing in the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk. In addition to this, the wide variety of direct destinations in Europe and North America from Iceland leads to significant time and money savings for Greenlandic passengers. The difference is so noticeable that even the self rule government has signed a contract for travel with Air Iceland.

Air Greenland meanwhile, is hoping a direct link to Canada will serve to partly halt Air Iceland’s advantage and partly to also create a whole new market.

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