One of two direct flights from Stockholm is landing in Austin today. SAS, a Scandinavian airline, has found that South by Southwest is so popular back home that it decided to start flying people nonstop to Austin just for the festival.
Julie Lundgren, who works for a business newspaper in Oslo, Norway, was among the Scandinavians who took the first 10 1/2-hour flight Thursday.
“Hopefully [I'll] get to learn a lot of new stuff about the media and technology,” said Lundgren, who is attending the festival for the first time.
Her newspaper is looking to improve its online service, so a group of her colleagues thought SXSW would be an important stop.
“We are really excited about the digital transformation," she said, "and that’s important for us to know more about it."
This is the first time an international airline has created a nonstop flight just for SXSW.
“There’s never been a Scandinavian carrier flying direct to Austin from Scandinavia before,” said Rickard Gustafson, the CEO of SAS.
He says he thinks the festival is popular in Scandinavia because of its focus on personal growth.
“I think that’s very appealing to a lot of our citizens,” he said.
As SXSW has become a destination for innovation and technology, Gustafson said it has become more important to companies back home.
“We are kind of rather a tiny country, but we have a heritage of innovation,” he said.
This is a milestone for Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Jim Halbrook, the airport’s spokesperson, says ABIA has grown right along with the festival.
“For years you’ve seen the international travelers coming through the airport to go to it," he said, "and now you're seeing an international airline come in with a nonstop from a destination that we have never had a nonstop before specifically for South by Southwest."
Delta also added some extra nonstop flights from Amsterdam for SXSW. Halbrook said this illustrates a lot about Austin’s economy right now.
“The airport in Austin and the economy have a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “As Austin’s economy grows, it becomes a better market for air service. And if you have good air service, that improves your local economy because you're more well-connected with the rest of the world.”