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Airports on my trip to Nuuk

This week started with an unusual travel plan in the Pentecost holyday. In Norway Pentecost is a significant close down of society, and this year the Pentecost Monday was followed by the Norwegian National Day 17th of May. Going to Nuuk with departure from Tromsø Pentecost Monday didn’t give me many choices in flights, all together I visited seven airports on my 14 hours travel. The airports tell the story of each of the cities or communities they serve.

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Tromsø TOS

The airport is situated on the island of Tromsø very close to the city center, as in many northern or Arctic cities and towns. This is advantageous when it comes to accessibility. In Tromsø, the airport is accessed by bus, taxi or by walking. The airport is in need of longer runway and extended safety areas. The existing culvert for the main road crossing under the runway is in conflict with both the need for safety areas and longer runway. This has been identified as a need for more than 10 years. The length of the runway is 2400 meters. This restricts types of airplanes and especially long distance intercontinental flights are not possible because of this.

The terminal has very limited facilities for international flights. For instance: The arrival hall in more like a basement room and the toilet capacity is restricted to one toilet. For the time being, Tromsø has international connections to: Luleå & Oulu, London, Stockholm, Alicante and Gran Canaria.

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Evenes EVE

Evenes – or Harstad/Narvik Airport – is main airport for the two city regions. It’s runway is 2 800 m. When the ongoing construction of the new highway bridge north of Narvik is finished, the airport of Narvik will be closed down: Evenes will then be in 40 minutes driving distance and the need for the 800 m local airport in Narvik is redundant. This is expected to contribute in increasing the importance of Narvik as an international and intermodal logistics hub: Narvik is the export port for Swedish iron ore.

Evenes has international flights to Alicante and Gran Canaria.

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Bodø BOO

Like Narvik, Bodø has railway and ports. With the airport next to the city center, Bodø is a compact intermodal hub. The transport of goods is national. Last year the Norwegian Government agreed on starting assessments on the relocation of the airport. The plan is to move the airport some 900 m to the south. In addition to establishing new infrastructure for both terminal and runways, this project will give new space for urban development. The cost estimates are high: 11 billion NOK.

The existing terminal has recently been refurbished and partly redesigned to increase the capacity. The runway is 2 800 m.

Bodø has direct international flights to Stockholm and Gran Canaria.

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Trondheim TRD

The airport is located in Værnes, in fact not only in a different municipality than the City of Trondheim, but also in a different county. The travel distance by bus is 35 minutes from the city center.

Trondheim is the third biggest city in Norway.

The airport terminal has recently been expanded: The international part of the terminal is now spacious and effective. The airport has international connection to 20 destinations in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Polen, Kroatia, Greece, Turkey, France, Spain, UK and Iceland.

The runway is 3 000 m.

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Keflavik – KEF

Keflavik is one of the most important reasons for Iceland’s growth the last 10 years. The tourism industry is now the most important industry in the economy. The success of Icelandair is absolutely crucial. The airline has established an extensive network of international flights, connecting Europe to North America. Icelandair has for 50 years offered passengers travelling between the two continents, a stopover in Iceland for no additional fee. The stopover period is now 7 days.

Also other airlines are present at Keflavik, Icelandair still being the most dominant. The day I arrived at Keflavik, it was all together 60 possible cities to fly to: Keflavik is a significant international hub, last year it had 4 855 000 international passengers. Compare this to the population of Iceland: 330 000.

The tourism industry in Iceland has grown with 20 % each year for more than 10 years. The growth is continuing and the airport has plans for expansion of the terminal. There is even plans for building a rail connection to Reykavik. Today, the bus ride takes 50 minutes.

The success has changed the Icelandic community in many ways. When I visited Iceland for the first time, three years ago, most of the workforce in the tourism was Icelandic. Nowadays I meet a big influx of the international tourism workforce in Iceland, as in Norway: Eastern Europeans and Asians.

The runway is 3 000 m

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Reykjavik – REV

The domestic Icelandic airport is situated in the city center, as close to the main street as in Bodø. The terminal is really small, quite old and a huge contrast to the international airport. Reykjavik has in fact international flights, all flights to Greenland and the Faroe Island departs for the airport. My flight was with the airline Air Iceland and the plane was a Bombardier Dash 8-200. The plane’s passenger capacity is 37. This type of planes is familiar to me, Dash 8 and other Dash model is in traffic in the regional routes in Northern Norway. The Icelandic ones they are a bit different, though. The flight time from Reykjavik to Nuuk is 3 hours 20 minutes, so the planes have been modified. The fuel tanks are expanded to make the long flights possible.

The future of Reykjavik Airport is discussed. It is restricting the urban development of Reykjavik, but many domestic passengers appreciate and value the city center localization.

The runway at Reykjavik is 1 567 m.

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Nuuk – GOH

The runway being only 950 meters, restrict the service at the airport and makes especially international travel time consuming. International flights from Denmark to Greenland, is serviced by the Kangerlussuaq Airport to the north of Nuuk. The passengers going to the Greenlandic capital Nuuk, is transferred to Dash 8 for a short flight. Nuuk has international flights from Iceland, but as my travel shows: It’s time consuming to change airports in Iceland and Nuuk is remote no matter which route you chose.

The Government of Greenland has recently prioritized to invest in an expansion of the runway to 2 200 meter. The project includes a new terminal building. The financing is not decided. This project, in addition to a 2 200 airport in Ilullissat and several visitors centers , is the core of the new national sector plan for tourism in Greenland.

The new airport is expected to be a trigger investment for Nuuk and Greenland: it will ensure growth in tourism and enhance Nuuk’s attraction as a society and by this attract and keep needed human capital to contribute in the growth of the society.

During my stay in Nuuk, an effect of the ongoing trigger investment, the expansion of the Port of Nuuk, was announced: The shipping companies Royal Arctic and Eimskip launched their intention of partnership in freight lines. By this the shipping line monopoly between Denmark and Greenland will be over.

I’m proud to say that Rambøll is contributing. We have two offices in Greenland. Supported by our Danish offices, they have engineered the new Port of Nuuk. Rambøll has made a feasibility study of the tourism industry in Greenland, a study that is a basis for the new national sector plan for tourism. And finally, Rambøll has made an assessment and recommendation for the expansion of Nuuk Airport and a new design of the airport, heliport and air traffic system in Greenland.

My return to Tromsø was an easier adventure, even though it included a night spent at the airports of Reykjavik and Keflavik – and in a taxi in between.

Nuuk is more remote than necessary. A trigger investment is welcomed.

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