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Finnair reducing summer flights to Japan, looking increasingly to western markets

Finnish flag-carrier Finnair is expanding services to Europe and the US as Russia's airspace ban complicates operations on its Asian routes.

Russia's ban on Finnair flights in its airspace is being reflected in fewer scheduled flights to Far Eastern destinations this summer. Image: Terhi Liimu / Yle

The flight ban imposed by Russia at the end of February on airlines from 36 countries, including Finland, will remain in force until the end of May, but Finnair has made preparations for a lengthy extension.

The effects of the ban have been taken into account in both the company's summer and winter schedules, says Päivyt Tallqvist, Finnair's communications senior VP.

According to figures from national airport operator Finavia, more than 3.8 million passengers traveled though Finnish airports in January-April.

That is about 480 percent more than during the same time last year, but clearly lags behind levels seen before the emergence of the coronavirus. In 2019, the total number of passengers at Finnish airports reached 26 million.

Recovery from the effects of the pandemic has begun to show in Finnair's flight and passenger figures, and according to Tallqvist, the summer is expected to be a busy one.

"Passenger numbers are increasing month by month. In May, we already had about 30,000 passengers a day," she told Yle.

Russia's ban change plans

Even so, the ban on flights over Russian territory is being reflected in the company's summer's offerings, especially in a reduction in flights to Asian destinations. Finnair had planned 40 weekly flights to Japan to five different destinations this summer. Now, the number has shrunk to seven Tokyo flights a week. In addition to Japan, the company has cut back on flights to China and South Korea.

"If you fly from Helsinki to Tokyo, the flight time is currently more than 13 hours, because it circumvents Russian airspace," Tallqvist points out.

That marks an increase of three hours in travel time since the imposition of the Russian ban.

The reduction in Asian traffic has also impacted shcedules for flights to other European destinations.

"We have somewhat reduced the number of flights to Europe precisely because there is less transfer travel from Japan and Korea," Tallqvist explains. At the same time, however, Finnair is aiming to expand its destinations in the West.

"There is now more capacity to Europe, the United States and South Asia," Tallqvist sums up.