Transatlantic Is Back: Inside Finnair’s Long-Haul US Focus

Think Finnair, think Asia. The carrier’s long-haul network primarily focuses on connecting Asia to wider Europe over its strategically well-placed Helsinki hub. But because Asia is recovering slower than many regions, Finnair has tilted capacity towards the US.

Finnair, Airbus A350, Stockholm
This winter, Finnair has 9% more capacity scheduled to the US than in winter 2019. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Focus shifts from Asia to the USA

In 2019, Finnair had over 3.1 million round-trip seats for sale between Helsinki and Asia, against just over half a million to North America. Its long-haul network was very much about Asia and the Far East in particular. Indeed, its Asia capacity rose by 49% between 2015 and 2019.

Speaking recently to Aviation Week, Finnair CEO Topi Manner commented on the slowness of the recovery in Asia. “We all know that travel restrictions in Asia will be slower to be lifted than in many of the other parts of the world.” This hasn’t been helped by Finland itself being slow to reopen.

Finnair to Asia and North America
Finnair added over one million Asia seats between 2015 and 2019. Source of data: Cirium.

A renewed focus on the USA

This coming winter, Finnair’s North America network comprises Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York JFK from Helsinki, together with Los Angeles, Miami, and JFK from Stockholm Arlanda. As Manner said:

“If we look at the immediate term, we are looking for possibilities to redeploy the capacity, temporarily, for example to North America, while waiting for Asia to come back.”

According to Cirium schedules information, Finnair has 355,000 seats scheduled to North America, 109% more than it had in winter 2019. This increase is the result of adding Stockholm, but Helsinki is also up by one-third. Most US routes from Helsinki have more capacity this coming winter, but of course, this doesn’t yet mean that passenger demand and fares have caught up.

Finnair to North America and Asia
This is Finnair’s North American and Asian network in winter 2021 and summer 2022. Not all are served in both seasons. Image: GCMap.

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Finnair’s coming routes from Stockholm

Finnair’s expansion into long-haul markets from Stockholm Arlanda was partly driven by the exit of Norwegian from long-haul flying. Just as it has propelled startup Norse Atlantic, whose long-haul network will initially be from Oslo.

As detailed below, the Finnish flag carrier will have five new routes from Arlanda this winter, with the A350-900 used to all. Bangkok, Miami, and Phuket begin this week.

  1. Bangkok: starting October 22nd, twice-weekly
  2. Los Angeles: November 2nd, three-weekly
  3. Miami: October 23rd, twice-weekly
  4. New York JFK: December 7th, three-weekly (four-weekly from January)
  5. Phuket: October 24th, twice-weekly
Finnair A350
Finnair’s long-haul routes from Sweden begin this week. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

But, Asia is still central to Finnair’s future

While subject to change, Finnair plans to serve 12 Asian destinations from Helsinki this winter: Bangkok, Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Krabi, Nagoya, Osaka, Phuket, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo Narita. This is in addition to Bangkok and Phuket from Arlanda. Meanwhile, Finnair is due to add back Helsinki to Beijing Capital, Busan, Fukuoka, Guangzhou, and Sapporo in summer 2022.

Because of the large and fast-growing population in Asia and Finnair’s geographic position to serve it, the continent will very much remain central to the carrier. As Manner said:

“We are fully committed to our strategy of connecting Europe and Asia via the short northern route… We have a sustainable competitive advantage there.”