Finnair chief executive Topi Manner announced late on Friday that he had tendered his resignation at the Finnish flag carrier for the top job at telecommunications giant Elisa Corporation.
Manner, whose short tenure at the Helsinki-based carrier was overshadowed by the twin crises of the pandemic and the closure of Russian airspace, will remain in his post until a successor has been found.
The announcement was made at 9 pm on Friday night after the Helsinki stock exchange had closed for the weekend. Manner is credited with managing to turn around the embattled airline with a new business strategy and radical cost-cutting program.
In a short statement, Manner announced his departure from Finnair, saying: “My time at Finnair has been characterised by the exceptional crises we faced. This has been the ultimate stress test for the entire Finnair team.”
“I am extremely proud of the way our organisation has responded, adapted, and succeeded. It has been an honour to be a part of this team effort and feel the Finnair spirit.”
Manner continued: “When I move to my new challenge, I will take many learnings with me. Finnair will always remain important for me. Meanwhile, I am committed to continue to lead Finnair with my strong team for the rest of my time with this excellent company.”
Sanna Suvanto-Harsaa, chair of Finnair’s board of directors, said Manner had done a “stellar job” despite the difficulties the airline had faced in recent years.
In the lead-up to the pandemic, Finnair had built its long-term strategy in connecting Europe with the Far East via a shorter northerly route through Russian airspace.
That strategy was badly impacted by pandemic border restrictions that shuttered much of Asia to the outside world. Just as the world started to reopen, however, Finnair was hit by the closure of Russian airspace.
Manner managed to quickly pivot Finnair’s strategy, refocusing the airline’s fleet West while hiring out spare planes and crew to other airlines in need of additional capacity.
At the same time, Manner successfully negotiated cost cuts across the business, including rewriting terms and conditions for many of the airline’s employees.
Much to the surprise of the industry, Finnair reported a half-year operating profit of 66.2 million Euros last month. The airline is now expected to turn a full-year profit of as much as 210 million Euros.
Manner will start his new role on March 1, 2024, at the latest, but he could leave Finnair earlier if the airline manages to find a new CEO before then. Finnair said it started the search for Manner’s successor on Friday.
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.