Finnair Suspends China, Japan, and South Korea Flights

The closure of Russian airspace to EU carriers means these services are “not economically sustainable.”

A Finnair Airbus A350 aircraft at Helsinki Airport. (Photo: Finnair)

Finland’s national airline has cancelled all scheduled flights to its East Asian destinations until at least March 6, with passenger and cargo flights to Guangzhou, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo temporarily halted due to tit-for-tat measures between the European Union and Russia over the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. (Hong Kong services have already been suspended until the end of this month.) Finnair relies heavily on access to Russian airspace to create what is billed as the fastest route between Europe and Asia via its Helsinki hub.

The carrier continues to run flights from Helsinki to Bangkok, Delhi, Phuket, and Singapore, but these have been rerouted to avoid Russian airspace, increasing the journey time on all four routes by approximately an hour. The changes also apply to Finnair’s services to Bangkok and Phuket from Stockholm Arlanda. Customers can request a refund if they have a flight to South Korea, Japan, or China scheduled until March 13.

Topi Manner, Finnair’s CEO, said in a statement, “The crisis in Ukraine touches all Europeans, and we understand the EU’s decision to close its airspace. We are implementing our contingency plan as the situation has a considerable impact on Finnair. Bypassing the Russian airspace lengthens flight times to Asia considerably and, thus, the operation of most our passenger and cargo flights to Asia is not economically sustainable or competitive.”

The suspension was announced ahead of a sweeping flight ban imposed by Russia on more than 30 countries, in retaliation for the EU-wide closure of airspace to all Russian-operated aircraft. Non-member states such as Iceland and Norway, as well as traditionally neutral Switzerland, have also barred Russian carriers and Russian-owned planes from their skies.

Lufthansa still serves Tokyo and Seoul, though detours are necessary to avoid Russian airspace. Sister carrier Swiss is doing the same: its Zurich to Beijing flights now take a more southerly route over Austria, Hungary, and Romania before skirting Turkey’s Black Sea coast and flying over Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

Singapore Airlines has suspended all services between Singapore and Moscow until further notice due to “operational reasons,” with affected passengers offered a full refund. While the carrier is still permitted to use Russian airspace, SIA’s flights to other European destinations, such as Frankfurt and London, now cross over Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf. Qantas is no longer overflying Russian territory on its nonstop Darwin to London service; its flight path closely follows that chosen by Singapore Airlines for services to and from Europe.

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