Finnair Keeps Cargo Moving With Asian Air Bridge

Finnish flag-carrier Finnair may not be ferrying passengers between Asia and Finland at the moment, but it is making use of its network to meet an increase in cargo demand. The airline said on Wednesday that it is carrying food supplies — and coronavirus test samples —  to Asia while bringing essential medical supplies back to Europe. 

Finnair, SAS, Flight Suspension
Finnair is utilizing its network to respond to cargo demand. Photo: Finnair

Cargo demand remains high

While passenger demand has come to a screeching halt, cargo flights are more sought after than ever. Customers in Finnair’s Asian network, particularly in Japan and South Korea, are dependant on access to food products, particularly seafood, brought in by the Nordic carrier. At the same time, the need for medical supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak is consistently high in Europe. 

Apart from transporting medical supplies from Asia to Europe, Finnair is also carrying coronavirus test samples from Finnish patients to South Korea, on behalf of a private health care provider group. This will help increase the coronavirus testing capacity of Finnish patients.

“When I talk to my family at home, I can say I’ve done something for the humanitarian purpose. That feels pretty good,” Mikko Tainio, Finnair Cargo CEO said in a statement shared with Simple Flying.

“In fact, all the Finnair team, on the ground and in the air, have gone above and beyond to maintain this vital operation. I’m proud of their commitment and professionalism, and I want to thank everyone at the airline for their hard work under the most challenging of circumstances.”

reconfigured 777-300er cabins
Finnair is also converting cabins to hold cargo instead of seats. Photo: Air Canada

Cabins converted

It is not only the bellies of passenger planes that are supporting the cargo efforts. As many other airlines have done, Finnair is utilizing commercial aircraft cabins. In order to increase capacity, the cabins of two of the airline’s Airbus A350s will be converted for cargo use. The carrier is already making use of unmodified cabins, stocking the passenger seats to enhance cargo volume.

As demands for its cargo operations continue to rise, the airline said it is looking to establish continuous supply chains as well as respond to charter requests. In its efforts to do so, some of Finnair’s crew is being called back into service. 

Unusual cargo-only hops

Finnair said that it is operating more than ten flights a week to destinations such as Shanghai and Guangzhou in China, Tokyo Narita and Osaka in Japan and the South Korean capital, Seoul. But it has also made more unusual stopovers closer to home. 

For the first time, on the 7th of April, Finnair flew an Airbus A350 from Helsinki to Tallinn in Estonia packed with cargo. While the distance itself was only 100km, it was the final leg of a journey that originated in Shanghai, China.

Finnair Keeps Cargo Moving With Asian Air Bridge
The Finnish flag-carrier is flying medical supplies from Asia to Europe. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

COOL Nordic Cargo Hub

Finnair Cargo operates one of the world’s most modern air cargo terminals at Helsinki Airport. The COOL Nordic Cargo Hub opened in 2018, and the airline invested €80 million (about $87 million) in its construction. It has large temperature-controlled areas for general cargo, as well as perishables and pharmaceuticals. Located next to widebody aircraft stands, this allows sensitive goods to remain in the terminal until 30 minutes before departure. 

At the moment, Finnair is also operating some passenger flights to several European destinations (London, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Stockholm, Tallin, Amsterdam, and Zurich) but only one intercontinental (a daily service to Tokyo’s Haneda).

Have you flown with Finnair to Asia via Helsinki? Or from Asia to Europe? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments.