Finnair is facing some tough decisions:
The closure of Russian airspace causes considerable changes in Finnair’s traffic. Finnair has today called employee representatives to discuss plans regarding possible furloughs of up to 90 days, which, if implemented, would impact Finnair flight crews. The estimated need for additional monthly furloughs for pilots ranges from 90 to 200 and for cabin crew from 150 to 450 employees starting from April. The final furlough need, however, depends on how the exceptional situation progresses and what mitigations can be found and will be defined during the negotiations. The negotiations concern all 2800 pilots and cabin crew members in Finland. In addition, Finnair evaluates the impacts regarding employees outside Finland in those destinations where the availability of work is estimated to decrease.
Russia issued a NOTAM (notice to airmen) on Monday 28 February regarding the closure of Russian airspace from Finnish aircraft until 28 May 2022. Finnair has now cancelled all of its flights to Russia until May 28, and has so far cancelled a part of its Asian flights until March 6, 2022. Finnair currently flies to Singapore, Bangkok, Phuket, Delhi and as of March 9 to Tokyo, avoiding Russian airspace, and is currently evaluating possibilities to operate a part of its flights to Korea, and China with an alternative routing. At the same time, Finnair is preparing an alternative network plan in case the situation is prolonged.
”With Russian airspace closed, there will be fewer flights by Finnair, and unfortunately less work available for our employees”, says Jaakko Schildt, Chief Operations Officer, Finnair. ”A large share of our staff has been on long furloughs during the pandemic, so the need for further furloughs feels especially harsh, and we are sorry for this.”
Passenger and cargo traffic between Asia and Europe plays an important role in Finnair’s network; before the pandemic, over half of Finnair’s revenue came from this traffic. During the pandemic, many Asian countries have restricted travel, but Finnair has operated many of its Asian routes supported by the strong cargo demand. Routing the flights avoiding Russian airspace adds at its worst several hours to the flight time, and the increased jet fuel price combined with the longer routing weighs heavily on the flights’ possibility to break even.