Finnair celebrates 70 years at its Helsinki hub

5 Jul 2022 by Alex McWhirter

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Finnair at Helsinki’s airport, and Finnair will be celebrating its 100th birthday next year.

As one might expect this Nordic carrier is Helsinki’s largest customer.

Jukka Glader, Finnair’s VP of ground operations, said:

“Helsinki has played a huge part in our history, being our home for the last seven decades, and has developed over time to become a major departures and transit point.”

An extensive redevelopment programme is in hand which will improve arrival, departure and transit facilities.

The latter is important because as a sixth-freedom airline Finnair would, in normal times, take many travellers from the rest of Europe to Asia via its Helsinki hub.

I say “normal times” because as readers might expect Finnair is subject to the Russian overflying ban.

Most of the Finnair long-haul network covers flights to Asia and especially to northeast Asia. To maintain its competitive flight schedules Finnair simply must overfly Russia, Mongolia and China.

Finnair Helsinki anniversary

Finnair’s long-haul expansion began in 1988 when it became the first ‘European’ (I say European because of the transit traffic from elsewhere in Europe) to fly nonstop between ‘Europe’ (Helsinki) and Beijing thanks to gaining the above overflying rights.

SAS, another neutral airline, was to follow later that year with Copenhagen-Beijing. These airlines were the first to gain these rights because of their nations’ neutrality.

Both the USSR (at that time) and China (mainland China) never signed the freedoms of air so they can pick and choose who overflies their territories. That remains the case today.

At the time of these flights in the 1980s it was very unusual. It meant one could fly from a part of Europe to China in roughly the same time as it took to fly transatlantic.

Previously air services between Europe and China were multi-stop and had to take the much longer southerly route taking maybe 20 hours.

At the present time Finnair has suspended most of its Asian network. Some services have resumed albeit with longer flight times. As we reported a once weekly service to Hong Kong will resume tomorrow.

To find out more about ‘freedoms of the air’, see our feature What is the Chicago Convention on aviation?

What is the Chicago Convention on aviation?

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