From June 3 to Sept. 30, travellers will be able to fly directly from Iqaluit to Toronto, and vice-versa, via Canadian North. The CEO of Travel Nunavut calls the news “huge.”
There’s a new option coming this summer for Iqaluit residents who need to fly to Toronto.
Inuit-owned Canadian North Airlines announced in a news release Wednesday morning that it will begin offering a direct three-hour flight between the two cities starting in June.
“We were looking for opportunities to create new demand for travel to and from Nunavut and for use of our service,” said Andrew Pope, Canadian North’s vice-president of customer and commercial.
He said Toronto was the “logical” option because it’s the most common place travellers connect to from Iqaluit.
The new flight is expected to operate every Friday and Sunday from June 3 to Sept. 30. Pope said that’s because the summer is the “peak season” for travel.
“Looking ahead further, certainly we are eager to see the response and see how much demand there is for this service,” he said. “That would certainly guide us in terms of future decision-making about whether to repeat this on a seasonal basis or extend the season, or look at a year-round option.”
Right now, Canadian North offers a direct flight to Ottawa, but not all the way to Toronto. Other airlines have various stops on the way to Toronto — in Rankin Inlet, Yellowknife and Edmonton — often with long layovers.
A direct flight between Iqaluit and Montreal, also operated by Canadian North, stopped two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, in part because Nunavut required visitors to the territory to isolate in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife before travelling North.
The company said it believes the new flight will be good for tourism and contribute to Nunavut’s economy.
Kevin Kelly, CEO of Travel Nunavut, agrees.
“If we want things to grow here, we need to be able to manage having multiple flights coming in from some southern destinations,” he said.
A direct flight to the Toronto market, he said, is “huge.”
Kelly noted the “sheer volume” of potential visitors as well as higher income earners in the city. He anticipates the flight will lead to more travellers not just in Iqaluit but also in nearby communities like Kinngait and Pangnirtung, both known for their natural beauty.
Graham Dickson, president of Arctic Kingdom in Iqaluit, said there has been little to no tourism into Nunavut for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that looks to be changing now.
“If we can make it easier and more convenient, I’m sure there will be many more people who will come,” Dickson said.
Kelly noted that the announcement is short notice for a lot of the larger, more established operators who are already booked for the summer and accepting bookings into 2023 and 2024.
But, he said, he expects some smaller or even new tour operators will pull together some new offerings to meet the demand.