Following two years of travel restrictions, 2022 was a big year for travel in Norway. Nowhere was this trend more evident than in the Arctic archipelago Svalbard. On its busiest days, the small terminal building at Longyearbyen Airport became dangerously crowded, and ground staff struggled to keep up with the number of charter flights arriving.
Things are different this year. Airport operator Avinor has opted to limit the number of aircraft available to Longyearbyen to six per day, with departures more spread out than in previous years.
Bottleneck on flights to Svalbard
Svalbard is at the top of many adventurous travelers’ bucket lists, and with good reason. Spectacular arctic landscapes, highly resilient wildlife, snow scooter safaris, round-trip cruises, photography tours, the midnight sun and northern lights are just a few of the reasons people plan a trip to Svalbard.
To travel to Svalbard, most people need to fly to Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost airport with scheduled flights.
According to NRK, twice as many charter flights will land in Longyearbyen in the summer of 2022 as in the last year of “normal” travel in 2019.
Much of this increase in charter flights was due to the need to fly passengers to board the growing number of cruise ships departing Longyearbyen.
Increase in charter flights
Last summer, the airport had to handle up to eight aircraft a day, even though it was designed to handle only one at a time.
According to a statement from the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, “Today’s infrastructure and limited capacity have resulted in occasional terminal building disruptions and air traffic delays.
The small size of the airport limits the authorities’ ability to control people and goods. In Oslo or Tromso, passenger arrivals are often identified prior to departure.
New restrictions on travel to Svalbard
There are no immediate plans to expand Svalbard Airport, although investments are planned to improve the runway.
Instead, Norwegian airport operators have announced that Longyearbyen Airport will accept up to six flights per day. These scheduled flights should also be better distributed throughout the day.
This can be a challenge for charter companies who often arrange flights on relatively short notice. They now have to deal with the time limit on which they can get a landing slot, which can have cascading effects on cruise itineraries.
Charter companies are most likely to be affected, but scheduled services may also be affected. With more limited supply in the summer, seat prices on upcoming SAS and Norwegian departures are likely to rise, but for those who have already booked flights, even a change of time or date. There is a possibility.