A flight from Inuvik to Paulatuk was forced to turn around on Friday as a fuel contractor was said to quit their post without warning.
The territorial government has temporarily stepped in to keep Paulatuk's fuel supply running after the contractor's sudden departure.
"There's a first time for everything, and this is the first," said Aklak Air general manager Ken Dalton.
As it neared Paulatuk, Friday afternoon's Aklak Air scheduled service received word from the airfield that the local contractor would not be supplying aviation fuel.
To the bemusement of passengers, the flight returned to Inuvik in order to pick up a territorial government employee – who then travelled to Paulatuk to dispense fuel.
"The crew ... would not have had the fuel to complete the leg, do the approach to land, and still have enough to take off back to Inuvik," Dalton told Cabin Radio.
"It was very inconvenient and, for now, the airline is out of pocket."
Asked if Aklak Air would pursue the contractor to recover the costs of its additional loop back to Inuvik, Dalton would not comment.
'At a loss'
The territorial government manages fuel services in 16 NWT communities through agreements with a range of local contractors.
It's not clear why this contractor chose to stop work. "It is unusual," John Vandenberg, an assistant deputy minister at the territorial Department of Infrastructure, admitted.
"Apparently, the contractor wasn’t going to dispense any fuel to the aircraft so there was no option but to go back. He just simply decided he wasn’t going to do it any more.
"We’re certainly disappointed the contractor quit and we regret the inconvenience to the passengers."
Vandenberg said a territorial government employee remains in Paulatuk for the time being to oversee the supply of aviation fuel, alongside other fuels for which the contractor had been responsible.
The department said Paulatuk company Territorial Investments, which previously held the contract, will "step up to the plate" to help the community's fuel services through the remainder of the holiday season.
"We’ll sit down in the new year and figure out what we’re going to do going forward," said Vandenberg – who could not recall any precedent for a contractor walking out on an aviation job with an aircraft inbound.
"You've got me at a loss," he said.
Vandenberg was not able to identify the contractor in question. "It really doesn't matter at this point," he added. "We've got someone in place."