Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and largest city
Greenland nowadays is seen by many transatlantic travelers as just a nice big chunk of ice to look at while crossing the vast emptiness of the ocean. Most of us don’t consider the thriving aviation industry on the world’s largest island.
Greenland is a territory of Denmark, with an area of almost 850,000 square miles (over 2 million square kilometers), populated by just 56,000 residents, mostly Inuit people. Greenland’s capital and largest city (pop. 17,00) is Nuuk, but that’s not where its largest airport is. For now. Nuuk is served by a small regional flight, offering Dash 8-200 service to cities across Greenland, like Maniitsoq, Paamuit, and Kulusuk, as well as Icelandair service seasonally over to Rekyjavik/Keflavik, the world’s only transatlantic Dash 8 service.
The island’s main international gateway is in Kangerlussuaq, a tiny town built around the airport constructed in WWII by the United States Air Force, as a strategic stopover point as well as a defense against the spread of Nazi Germany. Kangerlussuaq has a massive 9,000 foot runway, and is the only airport with jet service in Greenland. Air Greenland operates a daily service on their sole A330-800neo to Copenhagen, as well as seasonal service to the Danish cities of Billund and Aalborg.
Kangerlussuaq isn’t positioned greatly to serve the largest market, in Nuuk. But, it’s the only option for travelers looking to get in and out of Greenland (besides Icelandair’s service).
Nuuk International Airport
Nuuk is served by Nuuk International Airport, which sports two runways, at 2,900 and 3,000 feet in length. Not nearly enough space for any sort of jet, and certainly not Air Greenland’s A330. Its small terminal building is a boxy, warehouse type structure, with the capacity to process only a few people at a time.
In 2016, a plan was created to revamp Greenland’s aviation system, most notably constructing a brand new international airport in Nuuk, slated to open in November of 2024. Kangerlussuaq International will be shut to international traffic when Nuuk’s new airport opens, though will remain operational for regional flights as well as military aviation activity.
Nuuk’s new airport is being built on the same site as the old one, as it’s the only suitable space for an airfield in the area. It will sport a 7,000 foot (2,200 meter) asphalt runway, with a much larger and more modern terminal, able to support Air Greenland’s A338.
Air Greenland is expanding, and is set to begin Nuuk - Iqualuit (Canada) flights in a Dash 8 next summer. With the new airport, Air Greenland’s CEO told Simple Flying that this “brings in a new era for the airline.” It is certainly possible, according to One Mile at a Time, that Greenland’s flag carrier explores destinations in the US or deeper into Canada, like Toronto. Further expansion into Europe is even more plausible, as the demand certainly exists.