Finnair Launches Flights To Svalbard!

Strange as it may sound, Svalbard is near the top of my travel “bucket list.”

What is Svalbard, you ask? It’s located about halfway between continental Norway and the North Pole. In winter it experiences 24 hours of darkness, while in summer it experiences 24 hours of light. That’s something I simply can’t wrap my head around. It’s also home to the northernmost full service hotel in the world, the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Longyearbyen.

Up until now the only alliance carrier which has flown to Svalbard is SAS, from Oslo and Tromso. They’re a solid airline and it’s not a bad option to have, though as a oneworld guy it’s not ideal.

SAS-Plus-Europe-01

News just broke this week that a second alliance airline will be launching seasonal service to Svalbard in summer 2016. And it will also be the first international service into Longyearbyen.

Specifically, Finnair will be launching 3x weekly flights between Helsinki and Longyearbyen.

HELLYR

The flight will initially be operated by an Embraer 190 between June 1 and August 28, 2016.

Finnair

Here’s the schedule for the new flight:

AY689 Helsinki to Longyearbyen departing 11:45PM arriving 1:55AM (+1 day)
AY690 Longyearbyen to Helsinki departing at 2:45AM arriving 6:45AM

On one hand those are very oddly timed flights. On the other hand, when you have 24 hours of daylight, what’s the difference, really?

Award availability on the new seasonal flight is wide open — I see space in both economy and business class every day in both directions.

Finnair-LYR-1

You could redeem American miles for this new route, either as part of an award from North America, or otherwise as an intra-Europe award.

Another great way to redeem miles for the flight is by booking through British Airways. You’d pay 10,000 Avios for one-way economy, or 20,000 Avios for one-way business class.

New-Avios-Redemption-Chart-1

The catch seems to be that the new flight can’t yet be booked on British Airways’ award search tool, presumably because the website just hasn’t been updated properly. That being said, it should already be bookable by phone with BA, and you should be able to get them to waive the phone booking fee.

BA-Award

Bottom line

I know this is a minor route announcement in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one I’m quite excited about. Not only is this a great option for oneworld flyers, but it’s also the only product to Longyearbyen with business class. While it might only be intra-Europe business class, it does make that flight a bit more comfortable.

Are you considering taking Finnair’s new flight to Svalbard/Longyearbyen?

(Tip of the hat to David)

Comments

  1. We went to Svalbard a few years ago flying SAS and loved it! Enjoy! I hope you stay at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel!

  2. The flight times seem perfectly logical to me. They’re just timed so an aircraft that would otherwise be left unused overnight can fly it without interrupting the normal schedules.

  3. I knew a woman in the early 1990s who spent scientific time up there, hearing her stories was amazing…watch out for Polar Bears 🙂

  4. @Lucky – don’t forget BRW for the 24/night or 24/day experience. We did it over July 4th weekend a few years ago on an AS Combi and it was a great experience. Closer. Cheaper. Funner 🙂

  5. Been wanting to go to Longyearbyen for a while, although I’d likely take SAS over Finnair- looking forward to your trip report 😉

  6. I went there on June 19th on a Eurobonus Award ticket in SAS Plus (SAS semi business class) had a blocked middle seat and a nice meal and a couple of drinks on the way up North. The sun just went around in circles and it was bright sunshine all the time 🙂 There is a cheap hotel shuttle that meets all incoming flights and stops at alle hotels in the town, and check in is possible 24 hours a day.
    While i was there i watched Air Berlin flights arrive in the middle of the night from both Dusseldorf and Berlin, but they might have been cruise charters?
    I shot a nice video of the approach into Longyearbyen at around midnight
    https://youtu.be/bhNzcqesOgU

  7. I flew SAS intra-Europe J from OSL-LYR and it sucked. As you know, intra-europe is a a regular economy seat with a blocked middle seat with, but I was sitting middle seat when I was confirmed in J.

    Other than that, LYR is pretty cool. I want to go back there during their winter months to check out their winter activities.

  8. To keep the planes in the air Finnair have few of these overnight rotations to places that don’t have curfew. Especially Russia – Ekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. And now Longyearbyen.

  9. I have booked the inaugural flight. My eticket showed that the flight is operated by Flybe. Do you think that crediting the flights into AA advantage would be a problem?

  10. The Golden Compass and the His Dark Materials series were some of my favourite books as a kid. I travelled to Oxford largely to see some of the places in them. Likewise, I’ve wanted to go to Svalbard since I was a kid because of the books. It’s nice to know there’s a number of flights going there, and not to mention the hotel. Then again, I hope it doesn’t become too much of a commercial destination, as that sort of ruins the allure of it.

  11. I just got back from LYR, they don’t have international facilities there, like passport control, so I wonder how this will work out.

  12. @high end hobo

    Both Norway and Finland are in Schengen, so there are no passport checks between the two.

  13. @James Ukich

    Norway is in Schengen, The Svalbard group of islands of which LYR is the capital are is not in the Schengen area.

    The special status comes from the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 which mean their are no visas need if you come from one of the signatory countries and can stay as long as you want if you have the means to support yourself, you do however need a passport to leave and get back into the Schengen area in the Norwegian mainland or now in HEL.

  14. But what is there to do up there other than say “Ooooooohhhhhhhh look it’s been daylight all day & night & day & night….”?

  15. @@mkcol

    That’s a fairly common complaint, along with everything in Longyearbyen being horrendously overpriced (despite the lack of tax).

    Also Radisson’s claim of a full service hotel is slightly misleading. Yes, they do room service, but the rooms are basic – even the superior rooms. Only some rooms have a view, probably around 25%, the rest face the car park or the adjacent buildings.

  16. @mkcol
    Summer time, safaries om water and ice. Fishing, snowmobiles, dog sleds etc. Museums. Lots of awesome nature.
    Winter time, many want to see the northern lights.

    Just take a picture search og Svalbard. Its a great place. Mostly visited as part of a northern Norway vacation with flights from Tromsø.

  17. We were there for 3 days/nights in mid-May as part of a European trip (also Paris, Geneva and Athens). The primary thing to remember is that things operate at a slower pace there than many tourist destinations. Eco-tourism is a primary business, with support for Arctic science & research close behind; you’ll be able to meet a number of people from diverse countries if you’re inclined. A history/museum buff will have enough things to occupy them for a short stay like ours was, too.

    We happened by sheer chance to be there for National Day, and was able to enjoy the community celebrations with them.

    RE: Radisson Blu Polar, yes, the rooms themselves are less deluxe than many finer properties. But we found the staff and services were fully up to par.

  18. When is the best time of year to go if you’re interested mostly in seeing the northern lights? Would that only be in the dead of winter, or is it possible in whatever shoulder seasons might exist up there?

  19. @Ed

    I would recommend January/February as the best aurora borealis months.

    I live north of the Arctic circle myself, and those are generally the best months for spotting the northern lights.

    If you can be flexible, take a look at the weather forecast a couple of days in advance. Overcast = no bueno. Mainland Northern Norway can experience quite a spectacular aurora borealis show in the winter, but if the weather sucks, you won’t get to enjoy it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *