Finnair could be forced to furlough up to 650 pilots and cabin crew for at least three months because the airline has been banned from flying through Russian airspace. On Monday, the Helsinki-based carrier said it was preparing for a prolonged crisis and that it was no longer “economically sustainable” to fly to many of its destinations in Asia.
The airline has temporarily suspended flights to five Asian destinations in South Korea, Japan and China but has since been able to restart flights to Tokyo with up to four flights per week via an alternative route that adds nearly four hours to the flight time.
Finnair is also exploring the possibility of restarting flights to Seoul, South Korea and some destinations in China but with routings that will add additional time to the flight.
That extra flight time will cost a lot more in fuel and hurts Finnair’s proposition as being the fast northerly route from Europe to Asia.
Flights to Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore and Delhi can continue while avoiding Russian airspace but flight times will be increased by around one hour.
”With Russian airspace closed, there will be fewer flights by Finnair, and unfortunately less work available for our employees”, commented Jaakko Schildt, Finnair’s Chief Operations Officer.
”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.”
Although entry restrictions across much of Asia remain prohibitive, Finnair has been able to continue to operate the routes propped up with strong cargo demand. Russia’s retaliatory airspace ban on Finnair and other European carriers could strain already pressured international supply chains.
Even with this strong cargo demand, Finnair furloughed the vast majority of its flying staff through the pandemic and is pushing to lower wages and benefits to lower ongoing costs.
The airline has been progressively bringing back staff but has been almost immediately hit by Russian sanctions. Finnair says it could need to furlough between 90 and 200 pilots and between 150 and 450 cabin crew.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.