Kugluktuk mayor pens letter decrying Canadian North service in community

Airline CEO promises to add another flight

By Jeff Pelletier, Nunatsiaq News - August 2, 2023
Canadian North is promising more flights to Kugluktuk after Mayor Simon Kuliktana wrote a letter to the airline decrying poor service. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

Canadian North is promising more flights through Kugluktuk after the community’s mayor penned an open letter decrying the airline’s service.

On July 19, Mayor Simon Kuliktana wrote to Michael Rodyniuk, the airline’s CEO, demanding more frequent flights.

Kuliktana said his community’s medical travellers often find themselves stranded in Yellowknife when return flights are fully booked.

Currently, Kugluktuk’s Yellowknife and Edmonton-bound flights are mostly multi-stop journeys that take off in Cambridge Bay or Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. Kugluktuk is also often a stop on the northbound return flights to those communities.

“Our population is similar to Cambridge Bay and they get 12 direct flights, as compared to Kugluktuk where we only get six,” Kuliktana said in a July 27 interview.

Cambridge Bay has a population of 1,760, according to census data, while Kugluktuk has a population of about 1,400.

The number of flights cited by Kuliktana is in line with the schedule Canadian North provides on its website. Kuliktana said the difference has an impact on medical travellers from Kugluktuk who need to go to Yellowknife or Edmonton to receive care.

“A lot of medical appointments [are] cancelled due to a lack of seats,” he said.

“It becomes a regular occurrence where the patient will get a phone call an hour or two before the flight leaves, and that is not acceptable.”

Not only do medical travellers have difficulty leaving the community, Kuliktana said, they also have trouble returning.

He said one resident recently was stuck in Yellowknife for two weeks waiting for a flight home.

“This is costing thousands of dollars in meals and accommodations through the (Nunavut) government’s medical travel department, in my opinion, and this delay impacts the individual themself if they are employed,” Kuliktana said.

“The management of Canadian North are out of touch with the reality we are facing today, and they’ve got to do a better job.”

In a statement to Nunatsiaq News, Rodyniuk responded to Kuliktana’s complaint, saying the airline plans to add an additional flight to Kugluktuk on Sundays, starting Sept. 10.

“There is a process where demand is reviewed daily and if necessary additional capacity is added to markets to ensure medical travel needs are met,” he said in the email.

Contacted again on Aug. 1, Kuliktana said he had not yet received a direct response from Rodyniuk.

Regarding Rodyniuk’s statement, Kuliktana said he believes the additional flight is actually being offered in response to a previous demand he made last year, along with the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok, to bring more flights to serve the two communities.

“I think that was stemming from previous engagements from Canadian North,” he said.

“I have no confirmation that it stems from my letter, so it is hard for me to make a statement until I get the true facts.”

An airline spokesperson said Rodyniuk is not available for comment this week.

That said, Kuliktana said he welcomes the additional flights, especially if it means families in Kugluktuk and Ulukhaktok will have more options to travel.

However, he said he wants more information from the airline beyond a statement issued to the media.

“To this day, I have not received a response from them yet,” he said.

“If this is the response they are giving me, then they are missing the boat, in my mind.”

Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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