Finnair set for further Asian expansion?

Finnair Airbus A330

Finnair set for Asian expansion ?

Report by Alex McWhirter

Finland’s national airline is a popular choice with Business Traveller readers thanks to easy transfers at Helsinki and keen pricing.

Now comes news that Finnair will almost certainly expand its Asian network in the not-too-distant future.

Why ?

Because according to a report by respected Swiss aviation website

the Russian government has granted Finnair additional overflying rights.

It means Finnair can, if it so wishes, operate as many as 80 flights a week via the Trans-Siberian route to Asia as against 65 at present.

Of course Finnair executives will not openly comment on its plans for commercial reasons.  But, as surely as night follows day, we can expect Finnair to increase flight frequency if the demand is there.

Why are Russian overflying rights so important ?

Because Russia, along with mainland China, are two of the countries who have the authority to deny airlines the right to overfly.  These countries never signed the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) agreement of 1944.

Airlines who secure Trans-Siberian overflying rights gain access to a much shorter air corridor between Europe and Asia.

However in return the Russians demand royalty payments (the amount of which is a secret between the airlines and the Russian government).

Finnair was the first airline back in 1988 to link Europe with Beijing via the Trans-Siberian route.  It was followed soon after by Scandinavian Airlines.  Overflying Russia enabled flight schedules between Europe and China to be reduced from 24 to a mere eight or 10 hours.

In fact taking the Trans-Siberian route means a flight between Europe and Beijing would take roughly the same time as a flight between Europe and the US East Coast.

Finnair currently flies to Seoul (South Korea) in addition to numerous cities in mainland China and Japan.



Finnair and Japan Airlines expand codeshare

Finnair Airbus A330

Finnair and Japan Airlines have expanded their codeshare to offer increased connectivity to travellers between Europe and Japan. The enhanced agreement now enables Finnair to place its flight numbers on Japan Airlines-operated flights from Frankfurt to Tokyo Narita, for flights starting January 1, 2017.

With the new codeshare, travellers will be able to transit in Europe via Frankfurt in one direction and via Helsinki in the opposite direction. The two airlines currently operate a joint business agreement covering 24 weekly services between Helsinki and destinations in Japan, along with sharing revenue on all direct flights operated by both airlines between Japan and Europe.

“We are delighted to further strengthen our relationship between Finnair and Japan Airlines and to offer our customers more choice when travelling between Europe and Japan,” said Philip Lewin, Finnair’s head of partnerships and alliances.

Members of Finnair’s loyalty programme, Finnair Plus, are able redeem points on Japan Airlines-operated flights carrying the Finnish airline’s AY codes. The new codeshare flights are currently available for booking.

For Japan Airlines, the new codeshare offers improved options for international travellers flying on the Japanese carrier – a demographic the airline is increasingly looking to attract.

In November, the airline launched a new “Explore Japan” website supported in multiple languages, aimed at attracting international visitors to the country’s lesser-known areas and offering a more integrated end-to-end booking experience. Meanwhile in September, Japan Airlines began codesharing with Spanish carrier Iberia on flights between Madrid and Tokyo.;

Finnair to temporarily suspend Chongqing service

Finnair A350_XWB First delivery to Finnair -ferry flight take off

Finnish carrier Finnair will be temporarily suspending its Helsinki-Chongqing service between Jan 11 and May 2, 2017 as it looks to create room for pilot training for its Airbus A350 operations. The move follows the carrier’s planned acquisition of additional A350 aircraft in 2017, which will require its A330 pilots go through A350 training, putting a strain on its pilot resources as they are pulled away from regular flight duties.

The airline and travel agencies will be contacting customers with confirmed bookings on the affected flights to offer rerouting, travel date changes or refunds.

Speaking about the change Finnair’s COO. Jaakko Schildt, said: “We apologise for the disruption this is causing to our customers’ travel plans and will do our very best to find a suitable solution for each passenger, during this temporary period when we do not operate to Chongqing.”

The Helsinki-Chongqing service is expected to resume May 3, 2017 and will return to normal year-round operations.

Along with the suspension of the service to Chongqing, Finnair will be wet leasing an A340 aircraft from Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly for its Helsinki-New York route as part of its A350 pilot training next year, in addition to cancelling some of its Helsinki-Nagoya flights next Spring. Finnair will be deploying the A340 on its New York service from November 3, 2016 to January 8, 2017.

Finnair to add frequencies to Tokyo and Hong Kong routes

Finnair A350 XWB plane

Finnair is to add new frequencies to its routes from Helsinki to Tokyo and Hong Kong next summer, with the additional services being operated by its Airbus A350 aircraft.

The carrier will add four additional weekly flights to its current daily A330 service between Helsinki and Tokyo Narita, to be operated between June 5 and October 27, 2017.

The additional A350 frequencies will operate as part of its joint business agreement  with Japan Airlines, British Airways and Iberia.

Meanwhile the Finnish flag carrier will add three weekly frequencies to its Helsinki-Hong Kong route between June 6 and October 28, 2017, adding to the existing daily service which is already operated by the A350.

Finnair currently has seven A350 aircraft in its fleet, with four more scheduled to be delivered next year.

The carrier recently increased the number of its Heathrow-Helsinki services being operated by the A350 to five per week, allowing Finnair “to meet the increased demand for capacity and cargo on this busy route”.

Finnair launches UK-Asia sale

Finnair A350_XWB First delivery to Finnair -ferry flight take off

Finnair has launched a sale on its routes from the UK to Asia (via Helsinki), for booking made by September 15.

Examples economy fares include Hong Kong from £460, Singapore from £475, Beijing from £445, Xi’an from £445 and Delhi from £475.

Passengers can also upgrade to an Economy Comfort seat at the time of booking “for as little as €50 Euros during the promotional period”.

Economy Comfort offers more legroom, noise cancelling headphones, a Marimekko designed amenity kit and priority boarding and disembarkation.

Discounted fares are also available in business class, with examples including from £1,315 to Hong Kong, £1,340 to Guangzhou, £1,425 to Hong Kong, and £1,465 to Singapore.

Bookings must be made by September 15, for travel dates between September 6, 2016 and May 17, 2017 (exact travel dates vary depending on route).

Finnair flies from Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh to a total of 17 destinations in Asia via its hub in Helsinki.

Finnair increases A350 frequency on London-Helsinki route

Finnair A350 XWB business class

Finnair is to offer five A350 flights per week on its London Heathrow-Helsinki route from October.

The carrier has quietly been operating its newest Airbus aircraft on four flights per week between the two destinations, but has waited until now to promote the service, to allow for schedules to bed in and more A350 aircraft to be delivered.

Currently Finnair operates the A350 on flights AY831 and the return AY832 on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. A fifth service will be added on Wednesday (also AY 813 and AY832) from October 5.

The next-generation aircraft replaces the carrier’s A320 on the two hours 55 minute route.

Finnair is currently the only carrier operating the A350 into Heathrow, although Ethiopian Airlines plans to roster the aircraft onto its London-Addis Ababa route from August 15.

Andrew Fish, Finnair Sales Director UK & Ireland & Benelux, said:

“Finnair is proud to currently be the only airline operating the ultra-modern Airbus A350XWB to London Heathrow. The change, from a smaller short haul configured Airbus A320 aircraft, allows the airline to meet the increased demand for capacity and cargo on this busy route.

“The A350XWB flight from London Heathrow is perfectly timed to offer a short connection via Helsinki Airport onto Finnair’s long haul A350XWB services to Asia offering customers a seamless product experience.”

Aside from Heathrow, Finnair operates the A350 on routes to Bangkok, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul, with Singapore to follow on October 1.

The carrier has 19 A350s on order, configured for 46 business class seats (pictured), 43 in Economy Comfort, and 208 in economy.

Business Traveller reviewed the carrier’s A350 aircraft on its delivery flight between Toulouse and Helsinki in October last year.

Finnair introduces new in-flight menu on HKG–HEL flights

Finnair has partnered with Hong Kong-based Finds Restaurant & Bar to introduce a new Nordic-influenced business class menu on board its daily flight out of the SAR.

Finds has the distinction of being the only Nordic restaurant in Hong Kong. The challenge for executive chef Jaako Sorsa was to develop dishes that were authentic, yet appeal to the discerning Asian palette.

All of the new dishes were developed exclusively for Finnair, though many were influenced by the restaurant’s existing menu. In keeping with Nordic practices, Sorsa applied traditional cooking and preserving methods, such as smoking, curing and pickling.

Maarit Keranen, Finnair’s head of in-flight services, revealed that the airline’s partnership with Finds will run throughout the year, with the menu being rotated every three months to reflect seasonal changes.

Cathay Pacific Catering Services, which will continue to prepare Finnair’s in-flight dishes, has worked closely with Sorsa and his brigade over the past couple of months in order to perfect the preparation methods and ensure that the quality of the dishes served on board mirror those developed by the chef.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific attended a tasting event of the new menu. Here are our thoughts:




A fantastic starter for a cool winter night. The soup was entirely devoid of cream, which allowed the natural intensity of the porcini mushrooms to shine through. On top of the soup were some pan-fried morels, which provided texture and a contrast to the porcinis. This was finished with a drizzle of hazelnut oil – a great pairing with mushrooms, and a lot milder than the truffle oil that we’re used to here in Asia.




The cold-smoking technique used to preserve the salmon delivered plenty of flavour to the dish. While I initially found the pepper coating on the fish to be a little too strong, eating it with the crunchy, pre-chilled vegetables helped to reduce the fiery heat. Perhaps most intriguing was the use of barley, which I often consider to be rather bland – it was, however, brought to life by a touch of caper sauce and complemented the salmon perfectly.



Another appetiser option is the hot-smoked salmon salad, which will be served during summer. The tasty salmon, drizzled in melted butter, was accompanied by yellow beetroot, fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, mixed greens and dill dressing. The subtle sweetness of the beetroot paired well with the freshness of the seafood.




The first main course we sampled was a popular Nordic classic: meatballs. The closest many Hong Kongers get to trying authentic Swedish meatballs is sadly over the counter at Ikea. However, I’m pleased to report that the freshly prepared Finds version was miles better.

Keranen explained that the meatballs are made from a mixture of beef and pork, as the former offers a stronger taste that retains well at high altitudes, while the latter ensures that the meatballs are moist and juicy.

The decision to mix carrots with a potato mash was another stroke of genius, as the natural sweetness of the carrots helped to season the mash. A dollop of fruity lingonberry jam was the icing on the cake, adding a balance of sweetness and acidity.


Tarragon-baked salmon fillet was the other choice for a main course, accompanied by dill potatoes and creamy morel mushroom sauce. The salmon was again very fresh and cooked to perfection. The portion was also appropriately sized, given that this is to be served on a midnight flight. The mushroom sauce was delicious: though fairly plain, this helped the taste of mushroom stand out and it matched well with the seafood.

The new menu will be available on Flight AY 70, which departs Hong Kong daily at 0045, arriving in Helsinki at 0545 the same day.

For more information, visit

Clement Huang and Valerian Ho

AAdvantage bonus miles when flying transatlantic

American Airlines

American Airlines is offering its AAdvantage members up to 125,000 bonus miles when flying transatlantic with AA, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia or OpenSkies.

The promotion, which runs until January 31, has been launched to celebrate five years of transatlantic travel between American and its four partner airlines.

Valid on round-trips between Europe and North America, members can earn 25,000 bonus miles on first class and business fares, 7,000 bonus miles on premium or full-fare economy tickets (Y, B or H), and 2,000 miles on other economy fares.

American transatlantic bonus miles table

To be eligible, members must register before travel using promotion code NAF15 and complete travel by January 31.

Bonus miles can only be earned on a maximum of five round-trips and do not count towards elite status qualification or AAdvantage Million Miler status.

In a separate promotion, AAdvantage members can earn double miles when flying with American or Japan Airlines between North America and Asia before December 15 (see news, September 15).

Graham Smith