Cargo Demand Prompts Finnair To Continue Shanghai & Seoul Flights

Finnair will restart flights to destinations in Asia from March, aided by strong cargo demand. Finnair will fly to Shanghai and Seoul but will suspend Osaka and Hong Kong until the end of April.

Russian sanctions and airspace ban influencing Finnair route planning

The announcement by Finnair follows on from the decision in late February to temporarily cancel destinations in Asia, including Shanghai, Seoul and Osaka, due to the situation in Ukraine. In response to sanctions, Russia has banned 36 nations from its airspace. This includes Finland and to reach Asia by avoiding Russian airspace, airlines would need to operate longer flights between Helsinki and Asia. The Chief Commercial Officer of Finnair understands the challenges these changes have on customers, stating,


“We strive to offer our customers connections between Europe and Asia to the extent it is possible in this challenging situation. We understand how frustrating the situation is to our customers and are very sorry about the inconvenience and trouble the flight changes are causing them.”

Finnair A350
Photo: Finnair

Finnair reviewed operations in Asia following Russian airspace restrictions. Photo: Finnair

strong cargo demand

Following a planned review of operations after the temporary cancellations, Finnair has decided to restart flights to Shanghai and Seoul, despite the increase in flight times. With Russian airspace unavailable, it was making the economics of flights to Asia more challenging for Finnair. This was acknowledged by the CEO of Finnair, Topi Manner, who stated,

“The crisis in Ukraine touches all Europeans and we understand the EU’s decision to close its airspace. We are implementing our contingency plan as the situation has a considerable impact on Finnair. Bypassing Russian airspace lengthens flight times to Asia considerably and, thus, the operation of most our passenger and cargo flights to Asia is not economically sustainable or competitive.”

Finnair Airbus A350

Finnair will resume flights to Shanghai and Seoul, helped by strong demand for cargo. Photo: Finnair

Shanghai and Seoul are the beneficiaries of the review as Finnair will restart flights on Shanghai on 10 March and Seoul will follow, beginning on 12 March. Shanghai will operate once a week, on Thursdays. Seoul will operate three times a week, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Business Traveler reports that higher freight revenue will help to offset the increase in fuel and staff costs that the longer flight times require due to airspace changes. The resumption of these flights is possible due to the demand for cargo and alternative flight plans between Helsinki and the two destinations to avoid Russian airspace.

Uncertainty for Osaka and Hong Kong

Osaka and Hong Kong are established destinations for Finnair, but the only certainty at the moment is that they are both suspended until the end of April. The resumption of Shanghai and Seoul is a demonstration of the importance of cargo. Without this revenue in the belly hold of passenger aircraft, it may not have been economical for Finnair to restart these flights. With no end in sight to the airspace restrictions, Finnair may need to make more difficult decisions in the future.

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