If the cold doesn’t take your breathe away, the landscape surely will.
- Introduction and trip planning
- Lufthansa First Class Dulles to Munich
- Lufthansa Munich First Class Lounge
- Lufthansa Business Class Munich to Oslo
- SAS Economy Class Oslo to Longyearbyen
- Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, Spitsbergen
- Exploring Longyearbyen
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo
- Exploring Oslo
- Park Inn By Radisson Oslo Airport
- Lufthansa 747-8i Frankfurt to Dulles
- Park Hyatt Washington DC
While I was still technically on a First Class Star Alliance award booking, my final 3 hour flight would be on a SAS 737-700 in economy class. SAS only offers economy class on domestic flights so even though this flight departed the International Terminal, SAS still considers it a domestic flight therefore offers just the single class.
Having been in transit for about 20 hours at this point, I was getting anxious to find a bed. The flight boarded quickly around 9PM with more than half of the plane empty.
SAS domestic flying is a no-frills experience. The 737-700 was showing its age in cabin quality. The service was friendly though abbreviated. While I was drifting in and out of sleep, I heard the flight attendants selling several items that are generally complimentary for a non-US international airline flying domestically. I believe the couple behind me purchased a bottle of water.
My body was completely confused with the sun still shining on this flight arriving near midnight so I just went with water on this late evening flight.
I won’t post separately for the morning return flight back to Oslo so I will combine the two flights as they were essentially the same.
On the return, SAS served the following for breakfast which was actually quite tasty. I believe it had Ham and mayonnaise though don’t hold me to that. Tea and coffee was complimentary for breakfast.
I was fortunate enough to have the middle seat empty on the way up so it was more or less the same seat comfort level as my previous Lufthansa intra-Europe Business Class flight.
This economy flight would not warrant a post if it weren’t for the spectacular views on approach and departure from Svalbard. I feel so blessed to have laid eyes on such beautiful untouched terrain on an island so remote most will never
be crazy enough to choose to visit.
Our plane touched down around midnight and you could sense that everyone else on this half full jet was as excited as myself to get out and explore the 30 F midnight summer sun! If the cold doesn’t take your breathe away, the landscape surely will.
Needless to say there are no gate bridges at Longyearbyen airport. We deplaned the old-fashioned way from both the front and the back of the plane and walked into the terminal.
The airport is a few miles from the town so they have a simple shuttle bus system in place to take arriving passengers into town. For every arriving flight (which is only one or two per day), an airport shuttle bus waits outside baggage claim for all passengers from the arriving flight to collect their belongings. For 50 NOK (~9 dollars) per person in cash only, the shuttle bus makes a loop of the town’s hotels/hostels and drops people off. This is also offered for all departing flights making the same loop but in reverse. Each hotel/hostel knows its pickup time. Taxis are an option but they are slightly more expensive. Most arriving passengers went with the bus service.
Because I did not check any bags, I had a few minutes to wander outside and explore before the bus headed into town.
In Longyearbyen, polar bears outnumber people and they are extremely dangerous animals. The city is serious about safety and has signs posted throughout warning of the bears. In fact, it is illegal to leave the city limits without a firearm for protection.
Adjacent to the airport were two very interesting structures. The first was a large group of massive satellite dishes. Believe it or not, this extremely remote town was completely destroyed through bombing in WWII. The reason was actually its strategic position for predicting weather!
The second structure of note is an extremely small door protruding from the hillside.
It is the global seed vault. The seed vault is an attempt to provide insurance against the loss of seeds in the case of large-scale global crises or other doomsday events (The elimination of all credit card sign up bonuses). The site is ideal due to its lack of tectonic activity and permafrost.
The bus dropped me and a few others off at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel. Despite the excitement of arrival, I desperately needed a real bed!