Air Greenland is a unique one-stop shop for aviation, which might be expected for an air transport company serving the world’s largest island located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
It operates single-engine helicopters for sleighing or ski trips, search-and-rescue and medevac flights, and to support remote communities. It also operates seaplanes, fixed-wing turboprops for regional routes and a large Airbus A330 -200 for trans-Atlantic flights to Europe.
The flag carrier of Greenland was founded in the 1960s after a Danish Air Force lieutenant colonel issued a report on the country’s need for aviation and estimated total annual passenger volume would be about 1,200 people. Today, Air Greenland annually carries about 400,000 travelers.
Access to remote Greenland, population 56,000, could soon increase with development of two new airports and that is expected to open up opportunities for more freight transportation.
International airports the government is building in Nuuk and Ilulissat are expected to be completed in late 2023. They will make it easier for other airlines to operate in and out of Greenland. And Air Greenland is looking at the possibility of opening routes to North America, CEO Jacob Nitter Sorensen said during a virtual interview with the Sydney-based Center for Aviation for its July program.
Currently passengers from Canada and the United States have to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, or Iceland and transfer, making for a long journey to Greenland.
Most of the air cargo and mail for Greenland arrives on the A330 from Copenhagen at Kangerlussuaq Airport, but it is difficult to efficiently distribute the goods to the rest of the country with the fleet of small De Havilland Dash 8 aircraft that are also carrying passengers, Nitter Sorensen said.
“It creates bottlenecks and it’s very expensive. So I think we’ll see growing demand in the future both because the bottlenecks will be removed and also because the customers will have an increasing demand,” he said.
Air Greenland has an order with Airbus for a new A330 neo, the next generation of the aircraft that will replace the existing aircraft and offers much improved fuel economy, as well as a large amount of belly capacity for cargo.
Nitter Sorensen said the new airports and aircraft will enable Air Greenland to get involved in exporting seafood for the first time.
“Today there is almost zero cargo going out of Greenland. It’s one-way cargo. In the future, with direct access to the markets, we can begin looking at the export of fish, such as halibut and even shrimp and crabs,” he said. “That’s a market we will develop once the new infrastructure is ready.”
(Correction: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect location for one of the new airports being built by the government.)