Greenland is a fascinating destination that doesn’t actually see that many tourists. That’s for a variety of reasons, including that there’s only so much capacity in terms of accommodations. On top of that, flying to Greenland has historically been rather complex. That will be changing soon, as we’re within a year of the country’s major new international airport opening.
In this post:
Greenland’s capital is getting a new airport
Air Greenland is the flag carrier of Greenland, and the airline operates a fleet consisting primarily of one Airbus A330-800neo and seven De Havilland Canada Dash 8-200s. The carrier’s longest route is to Copenhagen. The catch is that while Nuuk is Greenland’s capital and most populous city, that’s not where the wide body jet flies to.
Instead, Air Greenland operates the A330-800neo between Kangerlussuaq Airport (SJF) and Copenhagen Airport (CPH). Kangerlussuaq is a small town, but the reason that the service is operated to there is because the airport has one of the only runways in Greenland big enough to handle larger jets.
Greenland has been working on changing that, by expanding Nuuk Airport (GOH). The most significant development is that the runway is being expanded, and will be soon be 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) long and 45 meters (147 feet) wide, making it big enough for the A330 to fly there. As a point of comparison, the airport’s runway is currently only 930 meters (3,051 feet) long, so it’ll more than double in length.
There’s now an updated timeline for the new Nuuk Airport terminal opening. As reported by Aviation Week, the airport operator has announced an opening date of November 28, 2024. Much of the advancements should already be open before then, with the new terminal building expected to be operational as of May 2024, just without the full runway.
What are the practical implications of this new airport?
Air Greenland’s plan is to eventually switch its A330 operations from Kangerlussuaq to Nuuk. This has huge implications:
- It will greatly simplify travel to & from Greenland for many visitors, and eliminate a connection, given that Kangerlussuaq was mainly just an airport that people transited
- Not only will this new airport shorten travel time, but previously any sort of bad weather would mean travelers would be stuck, while that should be less of an issue going forward
- Obviously this has a major impact on the small town of Kangerlussuaq, since much of the air service there is intended to connect to Air Greenland’s other services within Greenland
Air Greenland’s CEO explains what a challenge this move will be:
“It is preparing for the new infrastructure, both geographically — as we need to change the hub — and physically, as we need to relocate people and equipment. Additionally, it is getting ready with new equipment, processes, routines, procedures, products and schedules — essentially everything.”
Meanwhile the director of Greenland’s airports had the following to say:
“We are confident that the airport will be a game changer, not only for Nuuk but for the entire country.”
I’m curious if we see any major new expansion based on this airport change. You’d think that this would stimulate more tourism, though admittedly there are also some challenges. Air Greenland doesn’t have any additional aircraft on order, and ultimately most tourism is going to be seasonal, so it’s hard to make that profitable, short of operating flights with leased aircraft.
In the summer of 2024, we’ll see Air Greenland return to Canada, with a new 513-mile turboprop flight from Nuuk to Iqaluit, connecting Greenland to the Canadian Arctic. With Nuuk soon being capable of handling jets, it sure would be awesome to see Air Greenland fly to New York, or something.
Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, is getting a new international airport. There’s now an official opening timeline, as the airport is expected to open in November 2024. The biggest improvement with this new airport is that it features a much longer runway, so it will be able to accommodate jets. With this, the A330-800neo will eventually be moved from Kangerlussuaq to Nuuk, which should represent a much easier travel experience for most.
What changes do you think we’ll see to air transport in Greenland once the new Nuuk International Airport opens?