Iqaluit to Sanikiluaq flight to take off as soon as COVID-19 dies down

From CBC News – link to source story

The regular flight is a 6-month pilot project meant to break Sanikiluaq’s isolation

Meagan Deuling · CBC News · Posted: May 26, 2021

Sanikiluaq’s airport will soon be busier, thanks to two scheduled flights a week direct from Iqaluit, set to start as soon as COVID-19 restrictions allow. (Isabelle Beauregard)

Plans to launch a regular flight route between Iqaluit and Sanikiluaq as a six month pilot project are grounded due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Iqaluit.

Arctic Fresh Projects Ltd. and Panorama Aviation won the contract to operate the twice weekly flight that was supposed to start on May 31 and end on Dec. 2.

“We have our reservation system ready to go. We have our aircraft and personnel ready to go. It’s just waiting now,” said Merlyn Recinos, owner of Arctic Fresh, an Igloolik-based online grocery company. 

Sanikiluaq is a small community of under 300 on the Hudson Bay’s Belcher Islands. It’s the most southerly community in Nunavut, and right now, the only way to travel between Sanikiluaq and the rest of the territory is via Winnipeg.

Before the pandemic, Sanikiluaq was connected by air routes to northern Quebec, too. 

The mayor of Sanikiluaq, Johnnie Cookie, and the MLA, Allan Rumbolt, have long called on the government of Nunavut to create a direct flight route between Sanikiluaq and Nunavut.

Sanikiluaq mayor Johnny Cookie with his wife Annie. (Submitted by Johnnie Cookie)

The flight takes two hours, and Rumbolt says the connection will cut six days off every trip he has to make to Iqaluit.

“So the timing is going to be much more efficient for me,” he said.

Because he’s an MLA, Rumbolt is exempt from two weeks of isolation required for most people entering Nunavut. This means most people traveling in and out of Sanikiluaq to anywhere else in the territory, have to isolate twice in Winnipeg.

Cookie said the connection will make it easier for people from Sanikiluaq to attend meetings elsewhere in Nunavut, go to medical appointments, and to further their education and training.

Not only that, but people will be able to visit their families more easily. 

“It has been it has been very hard for any one of us to travel,” Cookie said.

Rumbolt is hoping that the flight means more government officials will visit Sanikiluaq. 

MLA for Hudson Bay, Allan Rumbolt. (Beth Brown/CBC News)

The way the contract is written means this is likely.

The Nunavut government guarantees that it will buy six seats out of every flight. Each seat costs $1207.50, one way. If the airline sells four seats, the territory will pay for two. If the airline sells seven seats, it won’t buy any.

This contract is being called a pilot project. The companies have the chance to extend the contract by six months three times, for a total of two years. After six months, they’re allowed to change the seat prices to reflect the Consumer Price Index. 

Panorama Aviation will be flying a nine-seat PC-12 aircraft back and forth from Iqaluit to Sanikiluaq. (Panorama Aviation)

A spokesperson from the Department of Community and Government Services said the flight route will be considered a success in the short term if it “breaks the community’s isolation caused by pandemic travel restrictions.”

Longer term success will be measured by demand for the flight, “as well as the value the service is bringing to the community of Sanikiluaq.”

Panoramic Aviation will fly a PC-12 aircraft, with nine seats.

Arctic Fresh and Panorama Aviation are determined to provide a service to Sanikiluaq that is in demand — Recinos said their goal is to not have to rely on the territory buying seats.

Canadian North flights scheduled out of Ottawa and Iqaluit cancelled Thursday

From CBC News – link to source story

Impacted passengers are rebooked to Friday, according to the airline

CBC News · Posted: Apr 21, 2021

A Canadian North Flight lands on the tarmac in Iqaluit, Dec. 30 2020. On Wednesday, the airline said it had to cancel all of its passenger flights out of Ottawa and Iqaluit on Thursday and rebook them to Friday. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

All Canadian North passenger flights scheduled for Thursday out of Ottawa and Iqaluit have been cancelled.

The airline said in a news release Wednesday that impacted passengers are rebooked to Friday.

The cancellations are due to weather in Iqaluit which caused a cargo freighter from Ottawa to not be able to land on Wednesday. It says the “significant volume” was returned to its cargo warehouse at the Ottawa airport.

“As we do not have the facility resources necessary to properly store additional tenders at this time, our cargo drop-off counter is closed for all tenders until Thursday afternoon,” the release says.

“We understand that there is an urgent requirement to bring essential goods into Iqaluit and our top priority is to safely provide this service. Accordingly, we will divert all available resources in Iqaluit to cargo services on Thursday.”

The airline says the flight cancellations will allow it to receive two 767 freighter flights in Iqaluit from Ottawa and Winnipeg and recover the capacity that was lost as a result of the diversion.

It added that the Iqaluit cargo counter will stay open to shipments containing essential goods only.

“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and we thank our customers for their support and patience as we do our best to get through the current backlog with the limited resources available,” the release said.

False positive COVID-19 test delays passengers for hours at Iqaluit airport after flight from Ottawa

From CBC News – link to source story

Once back in Iqaluit on Wednesday, individual then tested negative twice

CBC News · Posted: Jan 20, 2021

Passengers aboard Canadian North Flight FAB101 from Ottawa to Iqaluit are shown isolating in the secure area of Iqaluit’s airport on Wednesday while they wait for COVID-19 test results for an individual on the flight to come back from the Qikiqtani General Hospital. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

About 100 passengers on a flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit were delayed for nearly three hours at the Iqaluit airport on Wednesday, after what was thought to be a positive COVID-19 test for one of the passengers onboard was brought to the attention of the Nunavut government after the flight had already taken off.

The test turned out to be a false positive, according to a territorial government spokesperson, and passengers have now returned home. They had been isolated in the secure area of the Iqaluit airport.

The person who was tested was participating in the “expedited medical travel” program, which allows Nunavummiut to fly south for medical appointments and return to the territory without completing the usually required 14-day hotel isolation.

In a statement, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the person began their trip to Ottawa on Sunday and received a COVID-19 test on Monday.

Upon landing in Iqaluit, the individual was taken to Qikiqtani General Hospital and isolated, and two followup tests were then administered. Both the GeneXpert machine and BioFire machine returned negative results, according to a Nunavut official briefing the passengers isolating at the airport.

There are currently no active cases in the territory.

The Nunavut government received what it thought was a positive COVID-19 test result for a passenger onboard Canadian North Flight FAB101 from Ottawa to Iqaluit after the flight took off. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Many passengers had isolated at Ottawa hotel

The first briefing by government officials to passengers on Canadian North Flight FAB101 came about two hours after the plane landed in Iqaluit.

Maurice Lamothe, one of the passengers, told Radio-Canada that he was looking forward to going home because he was hungry.

He said breakfast bags were handed out early Wednesday morning before he left his hotel in Ottawa, where he and many others on the plane had been isolating before returning to Nunavut.

That bag was taken from him at airport security, so he said all he’d eaten was a cookie. The government distributed chocolate bars at about 2:30 p.m. 

‘All sorts of stories are going through our heads’

For much of the pandemic, the Nunavut government has contracted with several hotels in southern cities to allow residents of the territory to isolate for two weeks before they fly back home.

People who had isolated were on the flight with the person travelling as part of the expedited medical travel program.

“It’s too bad. Our two weeks in the hotel were a kind of fail, finally … we don’t want to be the patient zero of Iqaluit. It’s not funny,” Lamothe said in French.

Speaking before the briefing, he said there was a lot of anxiety in the area of the airport where passengers were being held.

“The people here are just asking what’s going on. They haven’t told us very much. They’ve said nothing, so we’re guessing. We’ve heard someone has tested positive, so all sorts of stories are going through our heads,” Lamothe said.

Preston Bromley also isolated at an Ottawa hotel before getting on Wednesday’s flight to Iqaluit.

“We understand that mistakes happen, but our main question is whether this was policy to allow expedited medical passengers on the plane without a negative test result in hand or whether it was a mistake at some point in the process.”

Written by Sara Frizzell, based on interviews by Matisse Harvey