Air Greenland (Air Greenland)

    Air Greenland

    IATA ICAO Callsign
    GL GRL GREENLAND
    Founded 1960; 64 years ago as Gr?nlandsfly
    Commenced operations 2002; 22 years ago
    Hubs
    • Kangerlussuaq Airport
    Focus cities
    • Copenhagen Airport
    • Ilulissat Airport
    • Nuuk Airport
    Frequent-flyer program Club Timmisa
    Subsidiaries
    • Greenland Travel
    • Hotel Arctic
    • Norlandair
    • World of Greenland
    Fleet size Fixed-wing – 9 Helicopter – 19
    Destinations 16
    Headquarters Nuuk Airport, Nuussuaq, Greenland
    Key people
    • Bodil Marie Damgaard (Chairwoman of The Board)
    • Jacob Nitter S?rensen (CEO)
    Revenue Increase US$194.02 million
    Operating income Increase US$12.02 million
    Net income Increase US$8.16 million
    Total assets Increase US$145.87 million
    Total equity Increase US$103.88 million
    Website airgreenland.com

    Air Greenland A/S (formerly named Gr?nlandsfly), also known as Greenlandair, is the flag carrier of Greenland, owned by the Greenlandic Government. It operates a fleet of 28 aircraft, including 2 airliners used for transatlantic and charter flights, 8 fixed-wing aircraft primarily serving the domestic network, and 18 helicopters feeding passengers from the smaller communities into the domestic airport network. Flights to heliports in the remote settlements are operated on contract with the government of Greenland.

    Besides running scheduled services and government-contracted flights to most villages in the country, the airline also supports remote research stations, provides charter services for tourists and Greenland's energy and mineral-resource industries and permits medivac during emergencies. Air Greenland has seven subsidiaries, an airline, hotels, tour operators, and a travel agency specialised in Greenlandic tourism.

    History

    Founded in 1960 as Gr?nlandsfly (translates to Greenland aviation), the airline started its first services with Catalina seaplanes and within the decade expanded to include DHC-3 Otters as well as Sikorsky S-61 helicopters. The majority of operations were based on helicopters until the newly established Greenland Home Rule began investing in a network of short takeoff and landing airfields. These were very expensive to construct and Greenland's airport fees are still among the highest in the world; they also required a new fleet: DHC-7 turboprops uniquely suited to the harsh terrain and weather conditions in Greenland. The reliability of connections improved as the domestic airport network expanded in the 1990s: increasing use of the Dash 7s made the airline less restricted by inclement weather. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Air Greenland acquired a Boeing 757 and an Airbus A330, allowing it to open connections to Copenhagen, until then operated by SAS which also competed mid to late 2000s. In the 21st century, it competes with Icelandair for international connections and small charter services domestically.

    1960s

    The Sikorsky S-61N helicopter, acquired in 1965, was one of the earliest aircraft in Air Greenland's fleet.

    The Sikorsky S-61N helicopter, acquired in 1965, was one of the earliest aircraft in Air Greenland's fleet.

    The airline was established on 7 November 1960 as Gr?nlandsfly A/S, by the Scandinavian Airlines System (now SAS) and Kryolitselskabet ?resund, a Danish mining company involved with the cryolite operations at Ivittuut to provide transport and logistics for four American radar bases in Greenland. In 1962, interests in the firm were acquired by the Provincial Council (now the Greenland Home Rule Government) and the Royal Greenland Trade Department (now KNI).

    The first flights serving the American bases in Greenland operated lightweight DHC-3 Otters and Sikorsky S-55 helicopters chartered from Canada. After a crash in 1961, Gr?nlandsfly used PBY Catalina water planes and DHC-6 Twin Otters on domestic routes. One of the Catalinas then crashed in 1962. In 1965, the Douglas DC-4 became the line's first larger airplane. It was followed by Sikorsky S-61 helicopters, which have remained in use: in 2010, they still served the communities of Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland year-round and those of Disko Bay during the winter.

    1970s

    Air Greenland's DHC-6 Twin Otters were used for ambulance and charter flights, such as to the research base at Summit Camp.

    Air Greenland's DHC-6 Twin Otters were used for ambulance and charter flights, such as to the research base at Summit Camp.

    During the 1970s, Gr?nlandsfly upgraded its DC-4 to the newer DC-6, but principally focused on expanding its helicopter fleet, purchasing five more S-61s. By 1972, it opened up service to east Greenland with a helicopter based in Tasiilaq, and established Greenlandair Charter. Mining at Maamorilik in the Uummannaq Fjord required still more helicopters, and the airline purchased Bell 206s for the route. Gr?nlandsfly also picked up a Danish government contract to fly reconnaissance missions regarding the sea ice around Greenland.

    By the end of 1979, the number of Gr?nlandsfly passengers served annually exceeded 60,000, more than the population of Greenland. That year, the airline's first international route was also opened, running between Greenland's capital Nuuk and the town of Iqaluit in northern Canada. The route connected Greenland's Kalaallit with Canada's Inuit and was operated in conjunction with the Canadian First Air line, but the planes were generally run empty and the route was shuttered 13 years later.

    1980s

    Air Greenland used the -102 (pictured) and -103 variants of the Dash 7. The latter of this aircraft is equipped with a front cargo section.

    Air Greenland used the -102 (pictured) and -103 variants of the Dash 7. The latter of this aircraft is equipped with a front cargo section.

    The establishment of the Greenland Home Rule Government in 1979 led to investment in a regional network of true airports, with short take-off and landing (STOL) airfields constructed in Nuuk, Ilulissat (1984), and Kulusuk. (These early airports were built without de-icing equipment, a situation which has proven problematic during Greenland's winters and continues to cause delays and losses for the airline.) The decade also saw the company train and hire its first native Kalaallit pilots.

    To service the enlarged network, Gr?nlandsfly began acquiring DHC-7s, planes particularly suited to the often severe weather conditions in Greenland. The first was delivered on 29 September 1979, followed by more over the next decade. These planes remain in active service, serving every airport except Nerlerit Inaat near Ittoqqortoormiit, whose operation is handled by Icelandair under contract with Greenland Home Rule.

    In 1981, Gr?nlandsfly opened its first route to Iceland, linking Reykjavík Airport to its main hub at Kangerlussuaq via Kulusuk. In 1986, a route to Keflavík allowed the company to break SAS's monopoly on flights between Greenland and Denmark via a Keflavík-Copenhagen leg operated by Icelandair. By 1989, the airline employed more than 400 Greenlanders and carried more than 100,000 passengers annually.

    1990s

    Air Greenland's first jet airliner, a Boeing 757-200, landing at Kangerlussuaq Airport in 2001.

    Air Greenland's first jet airliner, a Boeing 757-200, landing at Kangerlussuaq Airport in 2001.

    The same airliner in Air Greenland livery (2005). The aircraft was named Kunuunnguaq and registered OY-GRL.

    The same airliner in Air Greenland livery (2005). The aircraft was named Kunuunnguaq and registered OY-GRL.

    The company saw its activity curtailed as the mines at Ivittuut (1987) and Maamorilik (1990) closed operation, leading to a recession in the Greenlandic economy.

    As the situation improved, the network of regional STOL airports was extended with Sisimiut Airport, Maniitsoq Airport and Aasiaat Airport built in mid-western Greenland and Qaarsut Airport and Upernavik Airport built in northwestern Greenland. With the purchase of a fifth Dash 7, Gr?nlandsfly was – for the first time since its inception – able to provide plane services to all major towns in Greenland. (Uummannaq is served by Qaarsut Airport in conjunction with its heliport.)

    Gr?nlandsfly also purchased its first jet aircraft, a Boeing 757-200 which began operation in May 1998. The airliner was named Kunuunnguaq in honour of the Greenlandic explorer and ethnologist Knud Rasmussen, whose bust decorates in the terminal of Kangerlussuaq hub. The airliner allowed the company to run the profitable Kangerlussuaq–Copenhagen route directly, without affiliates or a layover in Iceland. Thus, in 1999, the airline served 282,000 passengers, nearly triple the number at the end of the previous decade.

    2000s

    Around the turn of the millennium, the airline renewed its aging fleet, retiring several of its S-61 and 206 helicopters and replacing them with Bell 212s and Eurocopter AS350s. The company also sacked its CEO Peter Fich, who had proven unable to balance Greenland Home Rule's demands for local Greenlander service with the board's for expanded tourism, lower fares and higher profits. Under his replacement Finn ?elund, Gr?nlandsfly initially posted a DKK 30 million loss as contractual obligations maintained unprofitable service while a strike ruined the summer tourist season and Post Greenland moved a lucrative mail contract to the Danish-owned Air Alpha Greenland. In response, the company successfully pushed back against Greenland Home Rule's large demands, high fees and low subsidies and rebranded itself, anglicising its name to Air Greenland and adopting a new logo and livery on 18 April 2002.

    In 2003, Finn ?elund left to head Maersk Air and was replaced as CEO by Flemming Knudson. Air Greenland opened a route from Copenhagen to Akureyri in Iceland; the service lasted for six years before finally being deemed unprofitable and ended. Also in 2003, SAS abandoned its Greenland service, leading Air Greenland to purchase its second airliner, an Airbus A330-200 named Norsaq. (SAS briefly revived the service during the peak season in 2007 before dropping it again in January 2009.) Owing to SAS's withdrawal from the market, Air Greenland received its contract with the U.S. Air Force for passenger service to and from Thule Air Base. Running from February 2004, the contract was renewed for another five-year period in 2008 despite SAS's brief return to the market.

    The first takeover of another airline took place on 28 July 2006, when Air Greenland acquired Air Alpha Greenland, a subsidiary of Danish carrier Air Alpha. Air Alpha Greenland had operated helicopter flights in Disko Bay and in eastern Greenland. Since the takeover, the acquired Bell 222 helicopters have been used for passenger transfers between Nerlerit Inaat Airport and Ittoqqortoormiit Heliport.

    In 2007, Flemming Knudson was moved to head the Royal Greenland fishing concern and current CEO Michael Binzer was hired with a mandate to lead the company towards greater commercialisation and self-sufficiency under the Qarsoq 2012 ("Arrow 2012") plan. On 13 June, SAS announced its intention to sell its stake in Air Greenland, a move later incorporated into its restructuring programme, but as of 2012 it has not found any buyers. On 1 October, the airline introduced its e-ticket system. Also in 2007, Air Greenland began direct service with Baltimore/Washington International Airport in the United States of America. After sixty American visitors were stranded by a strike of Air Greenland employees and the company refused to make alternate arrangements for their return, ticket sales slumped and the route was closed in March 2008.

    In 2009, the airline carried 399,000 passengers.

    Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops were added to the Air Greenland fleet in 2010 and are used for scheduled and charter flights, such as the shuttle service for the Inuit Circumpolar Council 2010 conference in Nuuk.

    Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops were added to the Air Greenland fleet in 2010 and are used for scheduled and charter flights, such as the shuttle service for the Inuit Circumpolar Council 2010 conference in Nuuk.

    2010s

    In the 2010s, Air Greenland curtailed some services. On 1 January 2010, Air Greenland suspended its participation in SAS's EuroBonus frequent-flyer program due to technical difficulties. In 2011, nonstop service from Narsarsuaq to Copenhagen was suspended.

    However, some expansion is planned. In order to compete with Icelandair, which operates service from Reykjavik Airport to Nuuk, Narsarsuaq, Ilulissat and the east coast of Greenland and now controls about 15% the market in Greenland-bound travel, Air Greenland may open a nonstop route between Nuuk and Keflavík International Airport in Iceland. Also, owing to improved technology and higher commodity prices, the Maarmorilik mines were due to reopen in November 2010 with zinc and iron ore reserves projected to last 50 years. As in the 1970s, the mine's supply flights to the mine will be operated by Air Greenland, using Bell helicopters (212s) based out of the Uummannaq Heliport.

    Air Greenland's last remaining Twin Otter was sold in 2011 to Norlandair in exchange for cash and a one-fourth interest in the Icelandic company.

    Reopening the connection to Iqaluit, now the capital of Nunavut, was considered by Air Greenland in late 2009, but finally happened in 2012. From 2012 to 2013, the airline saw a shy increase of 4 passengers flying to Nunavut over the previous year. However, this service ceased in 2015.

    In July 2015, Air Greenland became a member of the European Regions Airline Association.

    Prior to 2016, Air Greenland held a 50% stake in the Arctic Umiaq Line, an unprofitable but government-subsidised ferry service, with the other 50% controlled by Royal Arctic Line. In 2016 Air Greenland sold its stake in the company to Royal Arctic Line, and since July 1, 2016 the Arctic Umiaq Line has operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Arctic Line.

    Destinations

    Air Greenland Airbus A330-200 on approach to Kangerlussuaq Airport in 2004.

    Air Greenland Airbus A330-200 on approach to Kangerlussuaq Airport in 2004.

    The route from Kulusuk Airport to Iceland, previously operated with DHC-7s, was handed over to Air Iceland under government contract.

    The route from Kulusuk Airport to Iceland, previously operated with DHC-7s, was handed over to Air Iceland under government contract.

    Air Greenland's domestic airport network includes all 13 civilian airports within Greenland. Outside Greenland, the airline currently operates transatlantic flights to Keflavík International Airport in Iceland and Copenhagen Airport in Denmark.

    Two international airports capable of serving large airliners – Kangerlussuaq Airport and Narsarsuaq Airport – were constructed as U.S. Air Force military bases during the Second World War and continue to be used for transatlantic flights. All other regional airports are STOL-capable and are served with Dash 7 and Dash 8 fixed-wing aircraft.

    Smaller communities are served via heliports which connect with hubs located at Upernavik Airport in the Upernavik Archipelago in northwestern Greenland; at Uummannaq Heliport in the Uummannaq Fjord region in northwestern Greenland; at Ilulissat and Aasiaat Airports in the Disko Bay region in western Greenland; at Qaqortoq and Nanortalik Heliports in southern Greenland; and at Tasiilaq Heliport in southeastern Greenland. Of the 45 heliports in use, 8 are primary and equipped with a tarmac, a terminal building and permanent staff. The other heliports are helistops with either a gravel or grass landing area. Often helicopters need to make more than one flight for each connection to a fixed-wing flight because of passenger capacity, causing longer total travel time.

    Air Greenland also performs charter flights within Europe on behalf of European travel agencies using its Airbus A330. In 2015, Greenland's coalition governments voted to extend the runways of Nuuk and Ilulissat airports; this directly threatened the need for Air Greenland's single widebody aircraft. The A330 was only used from Pituffik and Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen Kastrup, but in January 2017, Air Greenland had announced more commercial routes to be covered by the aircraft between Iceland and Greenland. In March 2017, Air Greenland also announced adding more flights to Kangerlussuaq.

    Interline agreements

    The agreement makes it again possible to combine a trip, in one ticket.

    Air Greenland has interline agreements with the following airlines:

    • DAT (Denmark)
    • Finnair (International)
    • Icelandair (International)
    • Scandinavian Airlines (Scandinavia/Europe/International)

    Settlement flights

    Air Greenland operates helicopter flights to most settlements in Greenland ("settlement flights") on contract with the government of Greenland, with the destination network subsidized and coordinated by the Ministry of Housing, Infrastructure and Transport. Settlement flights are not featured in the company's timetable, although they can be pre-booked.

    Departure times for these flights as specified during booking are by definition approximate, with the settlement service optimised on the fly depending on local demand for a given day. Settlement flights in the Disko Bay region are unique in that they are operated only during winter and spring. During summer and autumn, transport between settlements is only by sea, with services operated by Diskoline, a government-contracted ferry service based in Ilulissat.

    Fleet

    The Airbus A330-200 pictured (named Norsaq) was Air Greenland's only jet aircraft from 2003 to 2022.

    The Airbus A330-200 pictured (named Norsaq) was Air Greenland's only jet aircraft from 2003 to 2022. It was used on the airline's long-haul routes. It has now been retired and replaced by an Airbus A330-800 (named Tuukkaq), delivered to the airline on 6 December 2022.

    As of December 2022, the Air Greenland fleet includes the following active aircraft:

    Fixed-wing fleet

    Air Greenland's Beechcraft Super King Air (named Amaalik) is used for ambulance flights for the Greenlandic Government.

    The De Havilland Canada DHC-8 is the airline's primary aircraft, operating on all domestic airport-to-airport routes. In 2010, the airline acquired its first Dash 8 aircraft.

    The Air Greenland fixed-wing fleet consists of the following aircraft as of November 2023:

    Air Greenland fixed-wing fleet
    Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
    C Y Total
    Airbus A330-800 1 42 263 305 OY-GKN
    Beechcraft B200 King Air 2 8 Operating as an air ambulance plane in Greenland.
    De Havilland Canada Dash 8-200 7 5 37 37
    Total 10 5

    Helicopter fleet

    An Air Greenland Eurocopter AS350 on operation, departing at Uunartoq (2007)

    An Air Greenland Eurocopter AS350 on operation, departing at Uunartoq (2007)

    Airbus h325 near Kangerlussuaq in 2021

    Airbus h325 near Kangerlussuaq in 2021

    The Bell 212 is the primary helicopter used for flights to district villages.

    The Air Greenland helicopter fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of May 2021):

    Air Greenland helicopter fleet
    Aircraft In service Passengers Purpose
    Airbus h325 2 19 SAR
    Bell 212 8 9 Domestic Charter
    Eurocopter AS350 9 5 Domestic Charter
    Total 19
    1. ^ Though capable of carrying up to 19 passengers for regular service, the h325 is ordinarily configured for search and rescue operations, capable of carrying up to 6 stretchers

    Historical fleet

    The older Sikorsky S-61N helicopters were stationed in Ilulissat Airport and Qaqortoq Heliport. With a capacity to seat 25 passengers, the S-61 based in southern Greenland was used to shuttle passengers arriving from Copenhagen at Narsarsuaq Airport. The sale of the Boeing 757 in April 2010 contributed to the long-term decline of the airport, with the airline planning to remove the old helicopter from the fleet.

    In the past, Air Greenland (Gr?nlandsfly) also used the following aircraft:

    • Aérospatiale Alouette III
    • Airbus A330-200
    • Bell 212
    • Bell 204
    • Bell 206B Jet Ranger
    • Boeing 757-200
    • Cessna 172
    • Cessna 550
    • de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
    • de Havilland Canada Dash 7
    • Douglas DC-3
    • Douglas DC-4
    • Douglas DC-6
    • MD-500
    • Consolidated PBY Catalina
    • Piper PA-18 Super Cub
    • Piper PA-31
    • Sikorsky S-55
    • Sikorsky S-58
    • Sikorsky S-61

    Management and structure

    Air Greenland headquarters in Nuuk  

    Air Greenland headquarters in Nuuk 

    Air Greenland hangars at Nuuk Airport (2010) 

    Air Greenland hangars at Nuuk Airport (2010)

    On 29 May 2019 the Greenlandic Government acquired 37.5% of the shares in Air Greenland from the SAS Group and 25% of the company shares from the Danish Government, becoming the sole owner of the airline. The total price of the 62.5% share was DKK 462 mill. The government ownership is held by the Ministry of Housing, Infrastructure, and Transport, that oversees the development of the transport industry in Greenland and controls Mittarfeqarfiit, the airport authority in Greenland.

    The Air Greenland board of directors has a total of nine members, including three members representing airline employees. The current chairman is Mr Kjeld Zacho J?rgensen (appointed 2018) and the deputy-chairman is Ms Bodil Marie Damgaard (appointed 2016). The CEO of Air Greenland is Jakob Nitter S?rensen appointed in January 2017.

    Headquartered in Nuuk, the airline had 668 employees in December 2009. The airline's technical base is located at Nuuk Airport.

    An Air Greenland Bell 212 on approach to Thule Air Base (2010)

    An Air Greenland Bell 212 on approach to Thule Air Base (2010)

    Charter

    The charter unit within Air Greenland is led by Hans Peter Hansen and employs 8 people, with 13 helicopters and 3 fixed-wing aircraft at its disposal. Excess capacity of airplanes is used for regular charters to tourist destinations in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    The helicopters, primarily the AS350, are used for special flights, such as search and rescue, air ambulance, charter flights to the Thule Air Base on contract with the U.S. Air Force, geological exploration, and supply flights to the mining sites and the research stations on the Greenland ice sheet. During the peak summer season, the helicopter crew is supplemented by freelance pilots from Norway and Sweden.

    Other charter flights include heliskiing shuttles, services for the energy industry such as facilitating oil exploration or surveying for hydroelectric stations and environmental research counting polar bears and tracking other large Arctic fauna.

    Subsidiary companies


    Tourism

    • Hotel Arctic A/S, a hotel and travel agency based in Ilulissat, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air Greenland.
    • Greenland Travel A/S, a package-tour travel agency based in Copenhagen, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Air Greenland.
      • World of Greenland A/S, an outfitter company based in Ilulissat, is a partnership between Greenland Travel A/S and Ilulissat Travel A/S.

    Aviation

    • Norlandair ehf. is an Icelandic airline. Air Greenland owns 25% of the Icelandic airline company.

    Service

    Business Class seats on the airline's former A330-200

    Business Class seats on the airline's former A330-200

    Business class

    A flexible business class – named "Business-Class" – is offered by Air Greenland on transatlantic flights aboard Tuukkaq, its Airbus A330-800. The service includes a personal video screen, an in-seat power source, an amenity kit, blankets and a selection of newspapers. Passengers travelling in business class are eligible to use the Novia Business Class Lounge at Copenhagen Airport.

    Economy class

    Air Greenland offers flexible and restricted economy class on all flights operated with fixed-wing aircraft, with complimentary snacks and drinks. On transatlantic flights to Copenhagen, both economy class and business class seats are available, with in-flight meals served in all classes. Air Greenland publishes a quarterly Suluk (Kalaallisut: "Wing") in-flight magazine, with general information about current political and cultural events in Greenland and with news from the airline.

    Accidents and incidents

    OY-HAI, the S-61N at Nuuk Heliport photographed only months before its fatal crash

    OY-HAI, the S-61N at Nuuk Heliport photographed only months before its fatal crash

    • On 29 August 1961, a DHC-3 Otter (registration CF-MEX) crashed 20 kilometers (12 mi) from Kangerlussuaq. The aircraft was a non-scheduled service en route from Kangerlussuaq Airport to Aasiaat Airport when a fuel leak caused an in-flight fire. One of the pilots was killed, while the other pilot and the four passengers survived.
    • On 12 May 1962, a PBY Catalina flying boat (registration CF-IHA) crashed during landing at Nuuk Airport. The accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction in the nose wheel doors preventing them from closing during landing on water, resulting in the aircraft sinking. The accident killed 15 of the 21 people on board.
    • On 25 October 1973, the Akigssek ("Grouse"), an Air Greenland S-61N (registration OY-HAI), crashed about 40 kilometers (25 mi) south of Nuuk, resulting in the loss of 15 lives. It was en route to Paamiut from Nuuk. The same helicopter had had an emergency landing on the Kangerlussuaq fjord 2 years earlier, due to a double flameout on both engines because of ice in its intake.
    • On 7 June 2008, a Eurocopter AS350 crashed on the runway at Nuuk Airport. There were no injuries, but the helicopter was damaged beyond repair.
    • On 29 January 2014, Air Greenland Flight 3205, an Air Greenland Dash 8-Q202 (registration OY-GRI), was involved in a runway excursion accident at Ilulissat Airport (BGJN), Greenland. Flight GL3205 originated in Kangerlussuaq Airport (BGSF), Greenland. Four passengers were taken to the hospital for observation, there were no fatalities or serious injuries. The aircraft went off the left side of the runway and down a 10–15-metre (33–49 ft) dropoff and came to rest on rocky terrain approximately abeam the runway 25 threshold. There was strong crosswind conditions gusting at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph). The aircraft was not repaired.


    Nuuk Airline

    Two alphabet codeGL
    Three alphabet codeGRL
    Call lettersGREENLAND
    Country and regionGreenland
    Fleet quantity31
    Number of destination cities opened67
    Website airgreenland.com
    Phone number+45 32 46 22 40
    Headquarters addressGreenland, Nuuk