London is poised to gain better value flights to Helsinki.Fares to the Finnish capital have soared since the demise of Buzz (a low-cost carrier) several years ago.
Right now British Airways and Finnair serve the route from Heathrow. But these Oneworld partners market each other's flights and have little incentive to compete. Consequently their business fares have drifted upwards. It means that Helsinki has become more expensive to reach than other Nordic or Baltic capitals.
Air Berlin will be the first to enter the route. The German airline will offer a once daily (except weekends) B737 service via Dusseldorf. Flights start on February 6 with departures from Stansted at 07.30 and (following a 100 mins transfer in Dusseldorf) arrive in Helsinki at 14.45. The return service departs Helsinki at 15.55 and reaches Stansted at 19.50 after a 140 mins transfer.
Air Berlin's schedules aren't the best but the airline compensates with typical prices of between £74 and £157 return. It will also through-check passengers and luggage.
The second new service is being operated by SAS subsidiary Blue 1 using an MD-90. This Finnish carrier (marketed in the UK by SAS) will operate non-stop twice daily on weekdays with a single evening flight on Sunday. The morning service departs Stansted at 09.45 and arrives Helsinki at 14.40 with the later flight leaving Stansted at 20.00 to arrive 00.55 the next morning. Inbound services leave Helsinki au 08.00 and 18.10 to reach Stansted at 09.00 and 19.10 respectively. Blue 1 fares start from £132 return.
BA and Finnair offer more frequent flights but at a price. Today, when Business Traveller checked peak hour fares with www.finnair.com for a two-day trip starting on January 23 the cheapest online fare was a hefty £646 return.
Report by Alex McWhirter