Helsinki-based Finnair is resuming its flights to Tokyo Narita on Wednesday, March 9, after suspending services owing to difficulties flying through Russian airspace. The airline says it continues to work on rebooting its suspended services to South Korea and China. Finnair continues to fly to Bangkok, Delhi, Phuket, and Singapore, albeit with a longer flying time than usual.
Asia flights key cogs in Finnair’s long-haul network
On Monday, Finnair paused its long-haul flights that normally traverse Russian airspace in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine. In addition, the airline also suspended its flights to Moscow and St Petersburg.
“Bypassing the Russian airspace lengthens flight times to Asia considerably and, thus, the operation of most of our passenger and cargo flights to Asia is not economically sustainable or competitivesaid Finnair CEO, Topi Manner.
But those long-haul flights to Asia are key cogs in Finnair’s network. Normally, at airports like Narita, Hong Kong, and Singapore, the airline hands over and receives passengers connecting from partner oneworld carriers like Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas. Finnair’s competitive fares, modern aircraft, and top-notch inflight service make the airline a popular choice with many passengers based a long way from Finland.
Increased flying time to Japan
In addition to passengers, Finnair does good business flying cargo between Europe and Asia. The demand for cargo space is higher than ever now that Russian cargo airlines are banned from many jurisdictions, including the EU. So it’s no surprise Finnair went into overdrive to reboot its Japan flights as soon as possible.
“Japan is one of our most important markets, and we want to continue offering safe and reliable connections between Helsinki and Tokyo also in this situation”, says Ole Orvér, Chief Commercial Officer, Finnair. “Japan is also an important cargo market, and air connections are needed to keep cargo moving.”
Effective March 9, AY073 will push back from Helsinki Vantaa (HEL) at 17:30 every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The flight, operated by an Airbus A350-900 will take 13 hours to travel across to Tokyo Narita (NRT). When able to fly over Russia, Finnair usually does the distance in less than ten hours.
The return flight, AY074, will leave Narita at 22;40 every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Airbus will land back at Vantaa late the following day after tacking on several hours to the normal ten hours and 15 minutes flying time.
Airlines collateral damage in Ukraine conflict
Usually, the bulk of AY073 and AY074’s flying is spent in Russian airspace. Rerouting the flights away from the airspace increases the flying time and inevitably costs the airline more in fuel and other operating costs. Finnair is one of many European airlines having to quickly develop contingency plans as the situation in Ukraine shows no signs of abating.
Meanwhile, while Finnair continues to fly to ports in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the airline advises flying time there is around one hour longer than normal. Finnair also notes they are working on restoring flights to South Korea and China as soon as possible.
“We continue to evaluate possible alternative routings for our flights to China and South Korea and will communicate on these as soon as the plans are finalized”, Ole Orver says.
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