Why the Arctic Is This Winter’s Hottest New Market for European Airlines

Hundreds of new flights will serve the European Arctic region this year, collectively offering tens of thousands of additional seats. In recent weeks, major airlines from across the continent have announced a flurry of routes to destinations deep within the Arctic Circle. 

Notably, many of the services will be operated for the very first time, suggesting a shift in travel demand and broader consumer behaviors. 

As Skift reported earlier this week, Scandinavian countries are becoming more popular as the effects of climate change take hold. Higher average temperatures in traditional ski areas such as the French and Swiss Alps are a key factor. 

According to a report published by the European Tourism Commission, the search for more reliable weather conditions is driving many winter sports enthusiasts further north.

The demand for vacations away from the crowds has also been a broader post-pandemic shift. In 2022, Skift highlighted the ‘rapid ruralization of travel’ as one of its Megatrends, countering over-tourism in more established destinations.  

Here is just a selection of the major new air routes operating into and around the region this coming winter:

Lufthansa: Frankfurt to Rovaniemi, Finland

While the title of Santa Claus’ hometown is contested, Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, claims to be his official residence. From November 30, Lufthansa will fly twice a week from its Frankfurt hub for the first time. 

Alongside Rovaniemi, the German flag carrier already serves the northern Finnish destinations of Oulu, Kittilä, Ivalou, and Kuusamo, as well as Helsinki. 

British Airways: London Heathrow to Tromsø, Norway

From December 1, British Airways will add Tromsø as the most northerly destination on its global route map. The city sits comfortably within the Arctic Circle and is known as a prime location to view the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. It will be the first time the airline has served the Norwegian city. 

Neil Chernoff, BA’s Chief Planning and Strategy Officer, said the airline’s schedule has been optimized to allow three and four-night trips that are in particular demand. Flights will operate twice a week until March 27. 

Iberia: Madrid to Tromsø, Norway

Joining its sister airline British Airways in Tromsø this winter is Iberia. The Spanish flag carrier will begin flights from its Madrid hub on December 1, with twice-weekly frequencies on Thursdays and Sundays until March 2. A total of 9,000 seats will be available during the three-month season. 

As well as Tromsø, Iberia is bringing back its Rovaniemi service. The airline, which described the route’s performance last year as “very successful,” is ramping up capacity for the coming winter. Flights will start on November 30 and end on March 1, representing an extra month of flying compared to a year earlier. The peak holiday period in December will see four weekly flights, with more than 12,000 seats on offer overall. This marks a 74% increase compared to winter 2023-24. 

A map showing new air routes for Europe in winter 2024A map showing new air routes for Europe in winter 2024
An overview of some of the new Arctic Circle routes for the coming winter
Source: Great Circle Map/Google

SAS: Five New Nonstop Routes

By definition, SAS Scandinavian Airlines already had a robust presence in key winter markets. But the Nordic carrier is proving that even incumbents have room for expansion in the coming season. Responding to what the carrier describes as “increasing demand from travelers seeking winter adventures in the north,” the airline is adding five new nonstop routes. 

Tromsø and Rovaniemi will see new flights, alongside Kiruna and the aptly named ‘Scandinavian Mountains Airport’ in Sweden. Here are the highlights:

  • Alongside existing routes to Scandinavian Mountains Airport from the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aalborg, new flights will begin from Aarhus (also in Denmark) and London Heathrow. 
  • A new route from Copenhagen to Rovaniemi, Finland
  • An extra link from Copenhagen to Kiruna, a town in the far north of Swedish Lapland
  • It will also add pressure to British Airways’ newly announced service, with its own flights between Heathrow and Tromsø.

Erik Westman, Chief Revenue Officer at SAS said Northern Scandinavia was seeing â€œa significant rise in Europeans” traveling to the region during the winter. He added that for the coming season, onward connections to destinations in the United States and Asia are being optimized. 

Finnair: Flights to Lapland ‘Every 30 Minutes’

Finnair is no stranger to Lapland and other Arctic destinations, but this winter’s program looks set to be one of its largest ever. The airline will offer up to 63 weekly flights to Rovaniemi – a 20% increase from last year. 

Finnair says the frequencies will be focused on popular travel days, which are Wednesdays and at the weekend. During peak hours on select Saturdays, there will be flights to Rovaniemi every 30 minutes; described by the airline as ‘Santa’s Shuttle’.

As well as regular services between its Helsinki hub and destinations in Lapland, it will also offer a nonstop connection between two Arctic destinations. A Rovaniemi to Tromsø service will operate six days a week, building upon a successful introduction in December 2023. The intra-Arctic services are operated as tag flights: Helsinki-Rovaniemi-Tromsø and Tromsø-Rovaniemi-Helsinki. Finnair has 14 destinations in Finland and 25 destinations in the wider Nordic region. 

Pasi Kuusisto, the carrier’s General Manager for North America said the region’s popularity among U.S. visitors had never been greater. Finnair flies direct from Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle to Helsinki. 

Air France: Paris to Kiruna, Sweden

Finally, Air France is also ramping up its Arctic program this year with the addition of a fifth destination in Lapland. Kiruna will join the network from December 21, with weekly flights from the French capital. The Swedish town joins Rovaniemi and Kittilä in Finland, as well as Tromsø and Narvik Lofoten in Norway on the Air France route map. 

A Scandi Summer Spike?

The wider Scandinavian region is no longer just a winter playground. The area is also enjoying a surge in popularity as a prime summer destination.

A recent study saw an 18% increase in Norway’s overnight stays, a 12% increase in Sweden, and a 9% increase in Denmark since the start of 2024. 

Short-term rental supply also increased, with a 37% rise in Norway, a 32% rise in Sweden, and a 24% rise in Finland.

Elsewhere, other northern markets such as Iceland have sought to diversify their offerings in recent years. Year-round arts and culture attractions are now being presented alongside more traditional tourist destinations. 

Airlines Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of airline sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets including network carriers, low-cost carriers, and other related companies.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more airlines sector financial performance. 

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top