This is now officially a domestic airport – international arrivals are no longer permitted.
We asked the Norwegian CAA the million-dollar question: can ENSB still be used as an ETOPS or emergency enroute alternate?
Their response: “ENSB now being a domestic airport, it shall not be used as an alternate airport in normal flight planning, but in case of emergency, medical – or flight safety related, the airport may be used.”
In other words, if you are planning a Polar flight and want to use ENSB as an ETOPS or emergency enroute alternate, you can.
We also spoke with the ATC tower at the airport: they confirmed that you can still use ENSB as an emergency divert, and they have someone there on duty H24. The normal RFF category is 8.
So why has the airport been downgraded from international to domestic?
It seems it has something to do with the authorities desire to limit the amount of charter fights operating directly to Svalbard. Now, if you want to go there you will first have to go to one of Norway’s international airports to clear customs, and then continue on to Svalbard as a domestic flight. The Norwegian CAA say direct international charter flights may still be allowed “in the interests of tourism”, but it seems this will be the exception rather than the rule.
Interestingly, you can still fly to ENSB direct from Russia, as they have a separate agreement from 1974 regarding the use of the airport – which is unaffected by this new rule.
Even more interesting is that when you get to Svalbard, if you decide to leave the main town of Longyearbyen, it is a legal requirement to carry a gun, and to know how to use it – they’re not joking about those polar bears.
Trans-atlantic operators who have been putting RALT/BGBW on their flight plans have been receiving hefty invoices post-flight.
BGBW/Narsarsuaq is a popular airport to use in flight planning as an emergency divert and for ETOPS, as it’s perfectly positioned right in the middle of the big empty chunk of nothing that exists between the east coast of Canada and Iceland.
BGBW is open Mon-Sat 11-20z (8am-5pm local time). It’s completely closed on Sundays and on holidays.
So if you file a flight plan with RALT/BGBW from Mon-Sat 11-20z, you won’t get charged.
But outside these hours, you will get charged. It gets slightly complicated here: the charges in the box below apply when they stay open for you to use as an ETOPS alternate at any time that they are closed (which is between 20-11z), but there’s an extra 10% charge on top of that for any time they are closed and fast asleep in bed, (which is between 00-08z). Got it?
Important to note: these get charged even if you don’t actually divert to BGBW. To save you from having to Google it yourself, 15,870 Danish Krone equates to $2485 USD!
If you want BGBW to stay open for you to use as an ETOPS alternate, you need to put RALT/BGBW in your flight plan – they’ll see it, and will stay open for at the times you need. But bear in mind that if they’re closed already at the time you file your flight plan, they won’t see it! So they prefer you to do it properly and arrange everything in advance by email: get in touch with them at PPR@mit.gl and also BGBW@mit.gl
If you get an invoice from a company called Global Aviation Data A/S, unfortunately it’s not a scam email – they are the guys who work with Greenland Airports to collect the monies owed when operators request airports like BGBW to stay open for them.
The really interesting thing is this – if more than one operator asks BGBW airport to stay open for them at the same time (or lists RALT/BGBW on their flight plan for the same time), the costs are not shared between these operators – they both have to pay the standard fees! That’s great news for the Government of Greenland, who will be getting paid multiple times by different operators for BGBW airport to stay open at the same time!