A file photo of wildfire smoke over Calgary Airport, as seen from an arriving WestJet flight. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
The NWT government says people who paid for flight tickets to get out of communities under evacuation orders won’t receive any financial support to cover that cost.
In doing so, the territory appeared to acknowledge this was a “gap” but said it was doing its best, within the NWT’s limited financial resources, to help people who need support the most.
Scheduled flights ran from Yellowknife for several days after the August 16 evacuation order, operating alongside an airlift that could be accessed at no cost.
Some passengers have written to Cabin Radio to say they bought tickets to ensure their safe departure, or to get to other NWT destinations where they had family who could provide accommodation, such as Inuvik.
Approached about the lack of support for air travellers, the NWT government’s Department of Finance told Cabin Radio: “Once the Yellowknife evacuation orders were issued, the GNWT arranged for residents who could not evacuate by vehicle to fly to designated evacuation centres in Edmonton, Calgary, Whitehorse, and Winnipeg.
“The GNWT will organize re-entry flights for all residents who need to return by air.”
Addressing the perceived imbalance between the support for drivers and those who paid to fly, the department added: “We recognize that the numerous evacuations throughout this summer came with hardships. The various programs offered by the GNWT, like the Evacuation Travel Support Program, help to offset the financial burden some residents may have experienced.
“These programs take other levels of support into account but, despite all supports offered, we recognize there will be gaps.
“This approach ensures that limited available resources are allocated to residents most in need.”