As the world begins to modify lockdown restrictions, Finnair has been working hard to develop a new look, post-coronavirus network. Having reduced operations from its usual capacity in April, the airline plans to start operating services to key cities throughout Europe and Asia from July 1.
“In July, we start ramping up destinations for us here in Finland,” explains Aaron McGarvey, manager of traffic analysis in Finnair’s traffic planning team. As well as flying to major cities across Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland between five and seven times a week, Finnair flights will operate twice daily routes from Helsinki to London, Paris and Amsterdam, with the aim of connecting customers to key hubs across Asia.
Those looking to travel further east will be able to choose from 11 weekly services to Japan, with Finnair flying to Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo Narita, as well as services to Singapore, Seoul, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. (Beijing and Shanghai are still subject to government approvals as we’re writing this.)
For domestic travellers, Finnair will operate six routes in Finland, flying to Kuopio, Mariehamn, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Turku and Vaasa. In August, flights will begin to Ivalo and Kittilä in Finnish Lapland, and in September operations start to Kuusamo and Tampere.
In August, flights will resume to New York, Finnair’s key destination in the United States.
According to McGarvey and his colleague Patrik Nyqvist, manager of short-term planning in the traffic planning team, these will be lower frequency than regular service, yet still offer connectivity for both leisure travellers and those flying for business. Transfers at Helsinki for longer flights to Asia are expected to be straightforward as usual.
In total, Finnair’s service levels will rise to approximately 20% of normal capacity in July, up from 5% in the April-June period.
MAKING USE OF SMALLER AIRCRAFT
These long haul routes will be served by Finnair’s Airbus A350 aircraft, while smaller, narrow-body planes will be used across Europe. “At Finnair, we have a very versatile fleet and that gives us an advantage,” explains Nyqvist. “It allows us to deploy smaller aircraft, so we can start ramping up slowly.”
With 70-100 seater aircraft being used initially, more capacity can be added by simply using planes with more seats, rather than starting additional services.
“We’re starting with the smaller aircraft on the shorter routes, so we have a lot of flexibility to increase seat capacity with larger planes where necessary,” adds Nyqvist. “Of course, we do have capabilities to add more flights if needed.”
The key challenge, says McGarvey, is working out how many customers will be using these new routes. With the majority of planes grounded since early April, the usual methods of developing a network based on demand have had to be adjusted, providing a new challenge for the traffic planning team.
“The traditional tools we use have become redundant,” he says. “We need to look at new ways of identifying trends. How do we juggle our fleet best?”
“We cannot rely on the normal forecasting systems as much as we would normally,” agrees Nyqvist. “So we need to rely on the trends we spot rather than being able to utilize optimisation tools.
“People’s booking behaviour is very different, so we have to be working in a completely new mode.” Both Nyqvist and McGarvey expect leisure travellers as well as business customers in the medium to long term.
Such challenges will be dealt with during regular reviews, once the new Finnair traffic programme launches in July. This will allow McGarvey, Nyqvist and their teams to tweak services accordingly depending on demand, as well as address any issues that arise once services are up and running.
“First of all, we will keep track of the travel restrictions that governments are imposing and adjusting accordingly,” says Nyqvist. This is vital as restrictions are being removed and some may be reinstated in different countries at varying times. “If the demand comes quicker than we anticipate, though, then we do have means to deal with that,” he adds.
The challenge of building a post coronavirus network has, however, had some positive effects. The new routes will be optimised for sustainability, an increasingly important part of Finnair’s business.
“We’re parking our older aircraft and trying to utilise our newer, more fuel-efficient planes,” says McGarvey. This reimagining of fleet usage means using newer Airbus A320 family aircraft. Wherever possible, Finnair will be using planes with a lower carbon footprint than older aircraft. The fact that smaller planes are being used also means that customers can fly knowing that their environmental impact is smaller too. Finnair’s commitment to sustainability and response to the ongoing climate crisis does not stop because of coronavirus.
The main thing that Nyqvist and McGarvey emphasise is that the new routes will be consistent and stable when they launch in July.
“When we publish the traffic program, we will not be playing around with it too much. That means we can build confidence with customers and show them that the product we are promising them isn’t going to change all of a sudden,” says Nyqvist. As the world inches back towards normality, Finnair’s programme gives a clear signpost of what to expect from safe and efficient travel in the future.
The official press release:
Finnair adds frequencies and routes to its network, with long-haul routes beginning in July
From July, Finnair will gradually add frequencies and routes back to its network. Finnair will review its schedule on a monthly basis and will update it as travel restrictions are removed and demand starts to recover.
”We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July”, says Finnair Chief Commercial Officer Ole Orvér. ”Our intention is to operate approximately 30% of our normal amount of flights in July, and we will also start long-haul flights to our key Asian destinations. We will then add routes and frequencies month by month as demand recovers.”
Finnair will flexibly add flights as demand develops. The flight schedule will also take into account the changes in travel restrictions in different countries.
“Our recent customer survey shows that customers are already planning both business and leisure trips”, Orvér says. “We want to meet this demand with our network offering.”
Long-haul operations start from Asia
Finnair’s long-haul operations will commence in phases from July, with a strong focus on Asia, which is strategically important for Finnair. Finnair will fly to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai in Greater China (subject to government approval); to Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo Narita in Japan; and to Singapore, Seoul and Bangkok. Long-haul operations are supported by the cargo demand. In August, Finnair will start flights to Delhi and to New York, and in November to Tokyo Haneda airport. Finnair also has flights to Miami, Krabi and Phuket during the winter holiday season.
European operations serve key cities
On European routes, Finnair will first focus on key centres, and will in July fly to Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Geneva, Hamburg, London, Malaga, Manchester, Moscow, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Riga, Tallinn, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Vilnius, Vienna and Zürich. In August Finnair will start flights to Barcelona, Milan, Madrid, Rome and Warsaw. During the summer holiday season, Finnair will also operate individual flights to some of the holiday destinations in Southern Europe.
Domestic flying maintains key air connections
In July, Finnair will operate six domestic routes in Finland, flying to Kuopio, Mariehamn, Oulu, Rovaniemi, Turku and Vaasa. In August Finnair will start flying to Ivalo and Kittilä in the Finnish Lapland, and in September operations start to Kuusamo and Tampere. Finnair will not operate to Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kemi or Kokkola during summer 2020. Decisions for these five destinations for winter 2020/2021 will be made later on, when there is more visibility to how the demand develops.
Flexibility for customers
Since March, Finnair has offered its customers extraordinary flexibility to change travel dates, and this continues. Customers can change their travel dates for all flights bought from Finnair’s own channels between 1 April and 30 June 2020 flexibly and travel within the ticket validity.
As Finnair publishes its flying schedule from July 2020 to end of March 2021, it is also cancelling those flights that will not be operating. Finnair will handle flight cancellations in phases, and customers will be contacted by the end of June about any cancelled flights they were booked onto.
A list of routes that Finnair will not operate during summer 2020 and winter 2020/2021 at all is available on Finnair’s Travel updates page.
- If a customer’s flight is cancelled, but Finnair still operates to the destination in question, Finnair does its best to automatically offer an alternative flight.
- Customers can seek a refund for cancelled flights.
- Customers, whose flights are cancelled, can change their travel dates until 31 May 2021 through Finnair’s website or customer service.