Finnair plans to increase capacity to Japan during the northern summer 2023 season, including resuming flights to Osaka more than a year after suspending service to the city.
Operations between Helsinki (HEL) and Osaka Kansai (KIX) will return on March 26 using Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The oneworld alliance member intends to offer three flights per week on the route.
Additionally, Finnair will maintain a daily service from Helsinki to Tokyo Haneda (HND) and increase frequencies to Tokyo Narita (NRT) from twice a week at the present time to four times per week. The network changes mean the carrier will provide 14 weekly round trips between Finland and Japan during the summer season.
Before the pandemic, Finnair’s business model had long been focused on connecting Europe and Asia, taking advantage of the geographic location of its Helsinki hub using the shorter northern route over Russia.
The carrier temporarily altered the strategy during the COVID crisis in response to travel restrictions—shifting its focus to destinations in North America—but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent closure of Russian airspace has rendered many Asian routes financially unviable.
Flights to destinations in Asia now take 15-40% longer, thereby increasing operational costs and inefficiencies in its long-haul fleet. Service to Osaka was suspended in February 2022 and the city has remained absent from its network ever since.
Finnair CCO Ole Orvér said the resumption of the route, coupled with increased flying to Tokyo, was in response to “increasing travel demand between Europe and key Asian destinations.” Frequencies to Hong Kong (HKG) will also be increased from 5X-weekly at present to daily.
On Finnair’s existing routes from Helsinki to Tokyo, the airline typically flies down over Poland and Romania, over Turkey’s northern coast, through Uzbekistan and across northern China. Flight times are about 13 hours 35 minutes eastbound and 12 hours 50 westbound. This compares with around 10 hours before the closure of Russian airspace.
During the summer 2023 season, Finnair will provide approximately 8,800 two-way weekly seats between Finland and Japan, down from almost 20,000 during summer 2019 when the airline served Tokyo Narita, Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya.
In September, the airline outlined a new strategy to build a more geographically balanced network and increase cooperation with partner airlines as it seeks to return to profitability.
CEO Topi Manner said that the Middle East would become a key part of Finnair’s network, building on a new agreement with Qatar Airways. Since November, the airline has launched daily Airbus A330 services to Doha (DOH) from Helsinki, Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) and Copenhagen (CPH).