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New charter airline cancels flights from Oulu and Lappeenranta

The new Finnish charter airline known as Snowbird has cancelled its flights from Oulu and Lappeenranta for the remainder of this year. The company says the move is the direct result of Russian tour operators discontinuing tours connecting Lappeenranta with Alicante. Changes are also scheduled for flights to and from the Lapland city of Enontekiö.

Uuden suomalaisen Snowbird-lentoyhtiön lentokone
A passenger plane bearing the Snowbird insignia. Image: Snowbird Airlines Oy / Lumilintu Oy

Finland's start-up charter airline, Snowbird, planned to begin flights connecting the northern city of Oulu with the Spanish cities of Malaga and Alicante in mid-October, along with another route connecting Lappeenranta with Alicante. But the start-up announced it was putting an end to ticket sales for those routes this weekend.  

“We received word a week ago that the Russian tour operator we were supposed to partner with had withdrawn from the deal. We have been unable to find a replacement travel option in such a short time frame,” says Snowbird CEO Marja Aalto.

Aalto says the cancellations will inconvenience only a few dozen passengers, as 80 percent of the plane’s capacity had been reserved for the tour operator’s business.  

For example, over half of the charter airline’s passengers on the route from Lappeenranta to Alicante would have been Russian travellers, Aalto says.  The cancellation also affects the Oulu route, as the same plane was intended to fly to both destinations. Snowbird will continue to fly individual flights from Oulu this autumn, many of which are already fully booked.

“This solution will allow us more time to negotiate with other tour operators, so we can begin new flights at the turn of the year,” assures Aalto.

Planned Snowbird flights connecting Helsinki and Malaga will on the other hand proceed as scheduled, beginning in mid-October.

British tour operators want flights to Ivalo

Snowbird is also planning changes to its Enontekiö flights. Routes between London and the Lapland city will be postponed until December, mainly at the request of British tour operators. A change in the route is also in the works.

“We will fly from Enontekiö to Ivalo, as that is the destination that is in demand this coming winter season. The request came directly from the tour operators,” says Aalto.

The route was originally planned to continue on to Helsinki from Enontekiö, but demand has proved low. Operators had trouble finding enough space on flights to Ivalo, so the route was altered to accommodate the demand.

Snowbird is on the lookout for a subcontractor with smaller turbo-prop aircraft that would be willing to handle the Helsinki-Enontekiö connection. Talks are underway with the Budapest Aircraft Service, the recent winner of the Ministry of Transport and Communications-tendered Savonlinna route.

Spanish airline to provide Snowbird flights

Snowbird will start its operations as an outfitter at first, purchasing flight services from other airlines. The company is currently making arrangements to enter into a long-time contract with the Spanish discount airlines Vueling.

“At first we are likely to use other operators, as our partnership to use Vueling’s aircraft and crew will not be implemented until the year-end,” says the Snowbird CEO.

Snowbird is nevertheless preparing to acquire its own air fleet and operate its own air travel.

“We can use our capacity in a flexible manner. When the tourist season is in full swing, we can ask Vueling to assist us. Likewise, we can fly as a subcontractor with Vueling when things in Finland are slower.”

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