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Flying to the Top of the World (By Amanda Steele)

photo: @ArticMandy The first thing you ask yourself when flying in the Canadian Arctic: Where exactly is the airport security? Most of us reach the Arctic by the way of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. We walk to our connecting flight’s terminal and then it hits us, “Wait a sec! No one has searched my bag!” Yes, you are free to board that Northern flight with your nail clippers.
Flights on the Arctic’s larger carriers are what I image flying was like for my grandparents. Sit back and relax while flight attendants greet you with a warm towel. Your flight to the hub of Nunavut is accompanied by a hot meal (with real food) followed by your complimentary glass of wine. The capstone to this in-flight meal is the after dinner mint.
Looking around the cabin mid-flight you might begin to wonder why the aircraft is divided in half between cargo and passengers. Don’t worry; all of this will become apparent soon. As you’re waiting for your luggage to appear on the baggage carousel (when there is a carousel), take note as to what items are passing by. In your typical airport, you’ll see the various sizes of suitcases and the odd guitar case go around. In the Arctic, it’s not uncommon to see building material, fresh food or cases of Pepsi. All of these items of course have proper baggage tags. While waiting for my luggage at the Rankin Inlet airport in Nunavut, I watched a pizza box move along the carousel. With no trains or roads going in or out of most Arctic communities airplanes become your delivery man.

photo: @ArticMandy Your final mission that day is hunting down the local taxi driver. Your ride in town may or may not be with an actual taxi company. It’s quite common to see the locals pile their luggage into the pack of a truck; hand over their house keys and throw the driver $20. You’ll hear the odd, “Just leave my keys on the kitchen table.” This kind of trust and friendliness is contagious in the Arctic.
One final word of advice: don’t assume that since you can navigate through Heathrow or pinpoint all the Starbucks in JFK that you’re also an expert in Arctic flying! Take some advice from the locals. On a trip to Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, my return flight to Yellowknife was scheduled to depart at 2 pm. I was shocked when I was told that in a community of 400 people I should be at the airport 2 hours in advance. I was in complete disbelieve. Apparently, the plane arrives around noon and departs shortly afterwards. Seats on the flight are on a first come first serve basis. I’m glad I took the advice because several people we left to wait for the next flight out.
Flying in the Canadian Arctic is an experience all to itself. Hopefully, you decide to do it someday because you have no idea the amount of untapped adventures that await in the North.
The above guest article was written by Amanda Steele. Amanda is a resident of Yellowknife, Canada and an avid traveler. She's currently feeding her travel addiction in London, UK. Follow her adventures on Twitter.

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Flying to the Top of the World (By Amanda Steele) + trip