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Finnair starts change negotiations due to the closure of Russian airspace

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The negotiations concern all 2800 pilots and cabin crew members in Finland. 

The closure of Russian airspace causes considerable changes in Finnair’s traffic. Finnair has called employee representatives to discuss plans regarding possible furloughs of up to 90 days, which, if implemented, would impact Finnair flight crews. The estimated need for additional monthly furloughs for pilots ranges from 90 to 200 and for cabin crew from 150 to 450 employees starting from April. The final furlough need, however, depends on how the exceptional situation progresses and what mitigations can be found and will be defined during the negotiations. The negotiations concern all 2800 pilots and cabin crew members in Finland. In addition, Finnair evaluates the impacts regarding employees outside Finland in those destinations where the availability of work is estimated to decrease.

Russia issued a notam (notice to airmen) on Monday 28 February regarding the closure of Russian airspace from Finnish aircraft until 28 May 2022. Finnair has now cancelled all of its flights to Russia until May 28, and has so far cancelled a part of its Asian flights until March 6, 2022. Finnair currently flies to Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Delhi and as of March 9 to Tokyo, avoiding Russian airspace, and is currently evaluating possibilities to operate a part of its flights to Korea, and China with an alternative routing. At the same time, Finnair is preparing an alternative network plan in case the situation is prolonged.

”With Russian airspace closed, there will be fewer flights by Finnair, and unfortunately less work available for our employees”, says Jaakko Schildt, Chief Operations Officer, Finnair. ”A large share of our staff has been on long furloughs during the pandemic, so the need for further furloughs feels especially harsh, and we are sorry for this.”

Passenger and cargo traffic between Asia and Europe plays an important role in Finnair’s network; before the pandemic, over half of Finnair’s revenue came from this traffic. During the pandemic, many Asian countries have restricted travel, but Finnair has operated many of its Asian routes supported by the strong cargo demand. Routing the flights avoiding Russian airspace adds at its worst several hours to the flight time, and the increased jet fuel price combined with the longer routing weighs heavily on the flights’ possibility to break even.

Finnair resumes flights to Tokyo, Narita with four weekly frequencies and new routing
Also, as of 9 March, 2022, Finnair flies to Tokyo Narita airport four times a week out of Helsinki, avoiding the Russian airspace. The flight time is approximately 13 hours and the flights connect smoothly to Finnair’s European network via its home hub Helsinki Airport. 

“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.”

Finnair flies from Helsinki to Tokyo Narita four times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, departing at 17.30 local time. The Tokyo-Helsinki route is operated on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays departing at 22.40 local time. The flights are now available at Finnair.com.

Earlier this week Finnair cancelled its flights to China, Japan and South Korea until March 6, 2022. Finnair continues to fly to Bangkok, Delhi, Phuket and Singapore, with a longer routing that avoids Russian airspace. Finnair flies to Bangkok and Phuket also from Stockholm Arlanda in addition to Helsinki.

“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”, Orvér says.

Finnair communicates flight changes and cancellations directly to customers who have bookings that are affected by these changes. In case of flight cancellation, customers can change their travel times, accept an alternative flight, or apply for a full refund for the unused ticket.

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