Finnair will become the first airline to offer scheduled international service to Svalbard Airport with direct flights between Helsinki and Longyearbyen from June 1 to Aug. 27 of next year, the airline announced in a press release this week.
“During midsummer we will provide three weekly flights to Svalbard, which is mainly aimed at European customers, but can be also be connected from our Asian flights,” said Petri Vuori, Finnair’s Vice-President of Global Sales, in a prepared statement.
That means three airlines will be offering regular flights to Longyearbyen next summer, in contrast to the monopoly Scandinavian Airlines had for five years until 2013. Discount carrier Norwegian Air resumed service in March of that year, significantly boosting and redefining Svalbard’s tourism industry in ways both praised and criticized. Still, many locals are hoping the additional competition will allow the positive aspects to continue.
“Let the bidding wars commence,” wrote Benjamin Vidmar, a Longyearbyen resident, in the comments section of a Barents Observer article about the announcement. “Now I hope the prices come down as more airlines come online. Presently it is more expensive to fly from Oslo to Longyearbyen, than it is to fly from Oslo to just about anywhere else in Europe.”
Initial round-trip fairs at Finnair’s website start at 198 Euro (1,829 kroner) for the roughly three-hour flights. The inaugural inbound flight is scheduled to to depart Helsinki at 11:45 p.m. (Finnish time) and arrive in Svalbard at 1:45 a.m. (local time). It is scheduled to depart Longyearbyen at 2:45 a.m.
Passengers flying to and from the Longyearbyen will need to go through passport control and customs since Svalbard is not part of the Schengen Area.