Greenland’s One and Only Gateway Airport

Greenland’s One and Only Gateway Airport

DALLAS — With about 80% of the country being a glacier sitting in the upper region of the North Atlantic, Greenland is one of those places that, even today, remains quite isolated in terms of air connectivity.

The quickest mode of transportation, air travel, is solely limited to Air Greenland’s (GL) single widebody Airbus A330 Neo shuttling passengers, and cargo between Copenhagen (CPH) and Kangerlussuaq (SFJ) in Greenland. Although at this moment, flights from Billund (BIL), a Danish city, run under an ACMI contract for GL.

Kangerlussaq Airport Overview with Air Greenland’s A330-800 ” Tuukkaq” ready for departure to Copenhagen. Photo: Author

Kangerlussuaq Airport—Greenland’s Hub-and-Spoke Hot Spot

For several years, Kangerlussuaq airport has served as the gateway point to the glaciatic country, GL’s A330 comes in just before noon on most days of the week and flies back to the Danish capital in a couple of hours.

The airport was established in 1941 when the US opened the airport as an air force base. It was the airport that came about first which led to the birth of the town of Kangerlussuaq.

During the 1950s, SAS use the airport for a technical stop for its flight bound for Copenhagen from the west coast of the US – Los Angeles mainly. The airport sits Nearly 150 kilometers inland from the west coast of Greenland deep into the fjords.

For this reason, the winds remain rather stable and allow flight operations throughout the year with hardly any problems. Nuuk Airport on the other hand faces harsher weather due it its coastal positioning.

Photo: Author

The airport-made town comes to life every time GL’s A330 comes in, be it security, ramp agents, or even people with that you’d otherwise not come into contact.

It’s also during this time, GL’s workhorse fleet of Dash8s (fleet stands at eight DHC8-200, with one more expected to join soon) make themselves present at SFJ, all ready to carry the incoming passengers to various other parts of Greenland, a domestic hub-and-spoke operation.

Photo: Author

It’s hard to imagine, although Kangerlussaq has some fantastic beauty and remains a hiker’s favorite, there’s nothing more than it just being an airport to facilitate travel to and from Greenland.

In a recent post, Airways sat down with the CEO of GL to get a deeper insight into the airline’s plans. You can check out the interview below.

Present-day Terminal at Nuuk Airport (GOH). Nuuk also serves as the base of Air Greenland’s fleet of Dash 8s. Photo: Author

Fragile Future

Succumbed to climate change, SFJ sits very close to the ice sheet and is experiencing Melting permafrost that’s impacting the runway’s surface through cracks. Ground that’s frozen year-round is witnessing raising temperatures that become susceptible to melting which turns solidly frozen earth into mud.

The first observations of runway damage date back to the 1970s. To battle this, the Greenlandic government has pushed for the expansion of Nuuk (GOH) and Illussiat airports, both of which are expected to be completed in 2024. Once they’re up and running, both of which will be international airports, the future of Kangerlussaq Airport is bleak.

Air Greenland is already preparing for a change in its operations and model based on these new airports which will make it a lot more convenient for passengers to have direct access to two of the most visited cities in Greenland avoiding extended transit times at SFJ.

If you ever wondered what it’s like flying onboard GL’s premium cabin, here’s something you should check out below.

Featured image: Author

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