Finnair Goes All-In On Doha & Qatar Airways

Finnair Goes All-In On Doha & Qatar Airways

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Helsinki-based Finnair has had an especially rough couple of years. The oneworld airline used to primarily operate long haul flights to Asia, though as you’d expect, the airline has had to rework its business model multiple times recently. Finnair’s newest strategy has recently been revealed. I wanted to provide an update, as the schedule for these flights has just been published.

Finnair & Qatar Airways launch strategic partnership

Finnair and Qatar Airways have announced a long-term strategic cooperation, which will see Finnair operating several daily flights from Nordic capitals to Doha. Specifically, as of late 2022, Finnair will operate the following routes daily:

  • Copenhagen (CPH) to Doha (DOH)
  • Helsinki (HEL) to Doha (DOH)
  • Stockholm (ARN) to Doha (DOH)

It’s stated that the airline is “exploring opening services also between another European destination and Doha.” My guess would be Oslo (OSL), but maybe another city is at play?

Finnair and Qatar Airways will codeshare on these routes, and the airlines will share passenger and cargo capacity between the services. In Doha, passengers will have access to around 100 destinations across Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and more.

Finnair will operate all of these flights with A330s featuring the carrier’s new long haul cabins, including the new no-recline business class.

Finnair will fly to Doha

Schedules for Finnair’s new flights to Doha

The schedules for these new Finnair flights have been released. These flights are obviously all about connectivity in Doha, so the aircraft utilization is pretty lousy.

As of November 1, 2022, Finnair will launch daily Copenhagen to Doha flights, with the following schedule:

AY1985 Copenhagen to Doha departing 3:15PM arriving 11:30PM
AY1986 Doha to Copenhagen departing 8:15AM arriving 1:10PM

As of November 1, 2022, Finnair will launch daily Stockholm to Doha flights, with the following schedule:

AY1983 Stockholm to Doha departing 3:10PM arriving 11:50PM
AY1984 Doha to Stockholm departing 8:10AM arriving 1:25PM

As of December 16, 2022, Finnair will launch daily Helsinki to Doha flights, with the following schedule:

AY1981 Helsinki to Doha departing 4:00PM arriving 11:45PM
AY1982 Doha to Helsinki departing 8:00AM arriving 2:15PM

It’s interesting to me that these planes will each be spending more than eight hours overnight in Doha with each trip. Essentially each of these routes is designed so that an Airbus A330 could operate them continuously. These planes seem to essentially be based in Doha.

I wonder where the crews will be based, given all the outsourcing that Finnair does of cabin crews. If they were based in Europe, that would mean that Finnair crews would have two night layovers in Doha, which is quite a bit of time for fairly few flight hours. Or maybe they’re actually based in Doha.

Presumably this schedule is based around maximizing connectivity in each direction, but then again, Qatar Airways also has a late night flight bank at 1-2AM, so presumably the flights could also depart around that time.

I almost wonder if this might have more to do with it being cheaper to park these planes in Doha for eight hours than to park them in Oslo or Stockholm for that amount of time.

Finnair will fly Airbus A330s on all these routes

Finnair drops Stockholm transatlantic flights

In late 2021, Finnair got creative, and started operating long haul flights out of Stockholm. This goes back to before Russia closed its airspace to Finnair, and was simply at a time when so much of Asia remained closed to visitors.

Rather than exclusively operating long haul flights out of Helsinki, the airline also added flights out of Stockholm, with service to:

  • Los Angeles, Miami, and New York, in the United States
  • Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand

All of these routes will now be “suspended” as of the start of the winter schedule, which kicks in as of late October 2022. With the current situation, clearly Finnair sees more potential being a feeder airline to Qatar Airways than it does operating point-to-point long haul leisure routes.

On top of that, Finnair will also be suspending its Helsinki to Chicago route as of this winter. That’s not too surprising, as the route has sometimes been seasonal in the past.

Finnair is focusing on Doha, Qatar

My take on Finnair’s strategy shift

I’m not sure what exactly to make of this development, other than to give Finnair credit for constantly evolving.

In the aviation world, you first had coronavirus, and then you had the closure of Russian airspace to many airlines. Pre-pandemic, Finnair’s intercontinental business model was all about Asia, as the airline marketed having the quickest travel time to Asia from many points in Europe.

Unfortunately that has become a huge disadvantage for the airline, between China continuing to be closed to visitors, plus the general challenges with flying to Asia while avoiding Russian airspace.

Finnair’s attempt to turn Stockholm into a long haul hub was an interesting one. The airline didn’t have much in the way of short haul connections there, so it was very much about point-to-point leisure traffic. Finnair has spent a lot of money on marketing in Stockholm, and for a while it seemed like the airline was committed to keeping this service.

I guess it didn’t work out, though, and Finnair is cutting its losses here, or at least pursuing better opportunities. I can’t imagine this is a temporary suspension, but rather I suspect it’s much more permanent than that.

In light of the situation, Finnair essentially feeding into Qatar Airways’ network makes sense. It’s the most efficient “lift” that Finnair can provide out of Nordic countries in light of circumstances. Furthermore, in the short term, it helps add some capacity to Doha for the World Cup. At the same time, I can’t imagine this is particularly high yield either:

  • Nordic countries are notorious for low premium fares
  • With travelers having to take at least two sectors in each direction, the per-segment fare for these tickets typically won’t be very high

This is being marketed as a long term partnership, and I’m curious to see if that sticks if/when China reopens its borders and Russia opens its airspace (and both of those very much fit into the “if” category, if you ask me).

Finnair is part of the lucrative oneworld transatlantic joint venture, so I’m a bit surprised the airline isn’t able to expand its transatlantic service out of Helsinki more profitably. I guess it reflects that there’s fairly little demand for travel to & from Northern Europe in winter, especially if you take Russia out of the equation.

This is part of a closer strategic partnership with Qatar Airways

Bottom line

Finnair and Qatar Airways have a new strategic partnership, whereby Qatar Airways will operate daily flights from Nordic capitals to Doha. The two airlines will codeshare on these routes, as this is intended to give people in Northern Europe one-stop service to many points around the globe.

With this development, Finnair will also be ditching its long haul flights from Stockholm to the United States and Thailand, which were first launched in late 2021. Clearly the airline sees more potential with this arrangement.

What do you make of Finnair’s new Doha service?

Conversations (48)
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  1. Sebastian Guest

    Qatar Airlines flies already now to the Nordics, how will these existing routes change when taking Finnair's new added capacity into account? What will the combined capacity for this partnership/alliance be?

    Also, Finnair has 17 A350s and 8 A330s, so placing 3 A330s permanently operating out of Doha is not _that_ large of a paradigm shift in Finnair's strategy. It's a nice operation/partnership, but it is not a major overhaul of what they'll intend to...

    Qatar Airlines flies already now to the Nordics, how will these existing routes change when taking Finnair's new added capacity into account? What will the combined capacity for this partnership/alliance be?

    Also, Finnair has 17 A350s and 8 A330s, so placing 3 A330s permanently operating out of Doha is not _that_ large of a paradigm shift in Finnair's strategy. It's a nice operation/partnership, but it is not a major overhaul of what they'll intend to do in the future.

  2. Anton Wahlman Guest

    Adding flying to Doha isn't a bad idea itself, but keep in mind that Qatar already flies between Stockholm and Doha daily with a 787, Either way, this is a gut-punch to those of us who need to fly nonstop business class from Stockholm to Los Angeles, Miami and New York. An absolute disaster.

  3. Pedro Guest

    By "exploring services between another European destinations and Doha" I would love to see some RIX/TLL-DOH service, which is kind of feasabe with an a320-a321. I do not see a great potential market there, but I consider this movement would directly challenge Air Baltic+Emirates partnership. Furthermore, Air Baltic had aspirations in Asia before Covid/War.

  4. Michael F Guest

    The info from Finnair as notice of my ARN-LAX cancellation: "Changes in our traffic plan for winter 2022-2023
    Finnair has updated its traffic plan for 30 October 2022 – 25 March 2023. See the instructions here if your travel plans are affected due to changes.

    Finnair has adjusted its traffic plan for 30 October 2022 – 25 March 2023, as our operating environment has changed drastically during this year with the war in Ukraine...

    The info from Finnair as notice of my ARN-LAX cancellation: "Changes in our traffic plan for winter 2022-2023
    Finnair has updated its traffic plan for 30 October 2022 – 25 March 2023. See the instructions here if your travel plans are affected due to changes.

    Finnair has adjusted its traffic plan for 30 October 2022 – 25 March 2023, as our operating environment has changed drastically during this year with the war in Ukraine and the subsequent closure of Russian airspace. Our aim is to operate a traffic plan that is as economically viable as possible. The traffic plan update includes flight cancellations and schedule changes. We are sorry about the harm and inconvenience the changes may cause to your travel plans.

    We cancel all our flights to Krabi and Chicago for the upcoming winter season, and discontinue the direct flights from Stockholm Arlanda to New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Bangkok and Phuket. In addition, on some routes we reduce weekly frequencies. In Japan, instead of Tokyo Narita, we fly daily to Tokyo Haneda, which offers excellent connections to our partner’s Japan Airlines network out of Haneda.

     If there would be any further changes to the traffic plan, we will communicate about them directly to affected customers."

    1. Mary Guest

      My award flight was also cancelled. (This seems to be a theme with me as my Johannesburg flight on Cathay Pacific also got cancelled last November.) LIS-ORD (via Helsinki). Sigh. Had to rebook with BA - and pay the associated fuel surcharges.

  5. Michael C Guest

    "Nordic countries are notorious for low premium fares"

    -Can anyone comment more on this? This is the first time I'm hearing this specifically. I know for example that Biz class is typically cheaper originating in Europe vs US but have never heard about Nordic countries specifically being a better market for J class

    1. Petri Diamond

      The fares can be very reasonable if you fly from the Central Europe. For example, Finnair offered a few weeks ago Budapest to Hawaii via Dallas or LAX return fare of 1.600 S in J. Just do not search fares starting from Helsinki.

  6. Alexandra Guest

    I guess that explains why I couldnt find AY fares for ARN-LAX or HEL-ORD this weekend. We ended up booking SK ARN-ORD return which is absolutely acceptable, despite being OW Gold!

  7. JB Guest

    This actually helps QR as well since they can now fly thr planes that would have flown these routes to other cities while still having the market and revenue from HEL/CPH/ARN.

    QR has changed up its schedule quite a bit during November/December to where it is heavily reducing capacity to South Asia and redeploying those wide bodies to other cities (DFW, MIA, GRU, MAD, etc.).

    DFW is getting a 3rd daily QR flight, while...

    This actually helps QR as well since they can now fly thr planes that would have flown these routes to other cities while still having the market and revenue from HEL/CPH/ARN.

    QR has changed up its schedule quite a bit during November/December to where it is heavily reducing capacity to South Asia and redeploying those wide bodies to other cities (DFW, MIA, GRU, MAD, etc.).

    DFW is getting a 3rd daily QR flight, while MIA is going up to 2x daily flights. I was looking at flights to Islamabad, Pakistan (ISB), which has 18x QR flights a week, all on widebodies and consistently go out full. During the World Cup, QR will only operate 7x flights a week on an A320.

  8. Simonas Bartkus Guest

    I believe you misinterpreted schedules. The aircraft and crews will be "based" in Doha, not Copenhagen or Stockholm. They will fly to HEL/CPH/ARN and return after two hours turnaround.

    Anyways, it is nicer to be based in Doha than in Copenhagen, especially in winter.

  9. AT Guest

    I'm surprised to see the Finnair service bashing.
    Yes it's hit and miss but it's no worse (and possibly better) than SAS.
    Also the new "no recline" J cabin-- which I have never flown -- seems pretty snazzy.

  10. Ron Guest

    This is done to add capacity during World Cup, pure and simple. That's why the suspended routes are specifically mentioned only for November and December. From January 2023 onwards, I bet that the ARN - BKK/HKT routes will return

    1. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Sorry. This is a partnership that is to last for several years.

      Which is not to say that ARN longhauls can't make a comeback. It's all about where those planes make more money. Right now, wetleasing to Eurowings and semi-wetleasing to Qatar gives more revenue than ARN longhauls.

  11. InceptionCat Guest

    The schedule has been released and aircraft utilisation is really bad. 3 Planes spend over 8hrs on the ground in Doha.
    Wouldn't a night time return provide better connections to passengers in Europe?

  12. Pierre Guest

    Given the abominable long-haul Business Class service on Finnair (which used to be good until 2-3 years ago but I recently was charged 2.50 euros for one chocolate with my coffee on a CDG-HEL feeder flight to the US with a high fare through Business Class while sitting in Ryanair-type Economy),

    WHO WILL BE CRAZY ENOUGH TO USE FINNAIR TO DOHA WHEN QATAR AIRWAYS IS AVAILABLE?

    1. Daniel from Finland Guest

      Don't worry. Qatar Airways will not be available. That's the whole point. :D

  13. Mama simsay Guest

    Finnair is a terrible airline!!!

  14. Gerry Guest

    I know what airline is like to be on in this codeshare !! Compare the 2 business class cabins and food ,wines , and service !!!

    It begins with the letter Q !!

    1. Hutch Guest

      Last time I checked, some of Qatar's flights into Helsinki were on narrowbodies... I'd take a Finnair widebody flight over that any day.

  15. shoeguy Guest

    US-Sweden is a small market that never really seems to work, apart from seasonal flights in the summer time. The rebound in demand for leisure travel to Europe has not entirely bypassed the Nordic countries, but its focus from North America and the US in particular, was France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and the UK this year. Basing a long haul operation out of ARN, which is an expensive airport to operate from, and on what...

    US-Sweden is a small market that never really seems to work, apart from seasonal flights in the summer time. The rebound in demand for leisure travel to Europe has not entirely bypassed the Nordic countries, but its focus from North America and the US in particular, was France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and the UK this year. Basing a long haul operation out of ARN, which is an expensive airport to operate from, and on what was long, thin routes, was spitballing at best. Sad to see the routes end but none of this is really surprising.

  16. Hossein hosseini Guest

    I don't see why Finnair is abandoning the Thailand market in the winter. It's a market that it proudly operated for so many decades. Given the efficiency of the Finnair planes , operating to thailand can be profitable with or without Russian air space given that you have other costs under control.

    1. Mark Guest

      Finnair will still fly HEL-BKK and HEL-HKT next winter season. The ARN-BKK/HKT and HEL-KBV services will be axed in the coming season.

    2. Pena Guest

      Well they don’t have other costs in control. Never did.

      Even in a normal market, Finnair is struggling to break even with the cost structure of a flag carrier and the product of a low cost airline.

      Now with Asian long haul pretty much out of the picture, they’re raking in steep losses and burning the Finnish government’s money.

      These current changes sound like a joke. No-recline business class? What is this, back to the USSR?

  17. Alec Guest

    Is there really enough people traveling to/from the Nordic’s to rest of the world for 3 flights a day? Can’t imagine they’ll get much connecting traffic from rest of Europe given the back tracking to fly North

    1. Karsten juul Guest

      Qatar has pre pandemic flown tree times a day between CPH and DOH. So maybe there is a demand.

  18. Akash Guest

    "Finnair will also be suspending its Helsinki to Chicago route as of this winter"

    Is that as of this winter, or for the winter. Have a business class award ticket for a May 25th, 2023 flight. Should I be looking at alternatives ?

    1. Petri Diamond

      Like Ben said, the Chicago route has been seasonal in the past. If this summer is any indication, they can and will operate again next summer with full flights.

  19. Ralph4878 Guest

    What's most surprising about this to me (being partly based in BKK) is AY slashing the ARN-BKK and ARN-HKT flights. Swedes love Thailand! Especially in the Scandi winter...I thought these routes would have been popular, though TG also flies nonstop to BKK. Still, a direct flight from Stockholm to Phuket in the winter must have had fans.

    1. Andy Diamond

      I agree. In fact for EU to Thailand winter is the peak season. I guess they will rebook via HEL or DOH, but I think they miss out on the best part of the year…

    2. Ralph4878 Guest

      Indeed...when the stark winter darkness comes Europe in December, it's the start of the dryer weather in Thailand. February is the best time to visit, in my opinion - there's very little rain, tons of sunshine, and humidity is down (though "dry season" really only refers to the rain...humidity can still hit 75% in the "dry" monsoon months) while prices are still shoulder-y. I only spend June - August in BKK now, and while the...

      Indeed...when the stark winter darkness comes Europe in December, it's the start of the dryer weather in Thailand. February is the best time to visit, in my opinion - there's very little rain, tons of sunshine, and humidity is down (though "dry season" really only refers to the rain...humidity can still hit 75% in the "dry" monsoon months) while prices are still shoulder-y. I only spend June - August in BKK now, and while the prices in Krabi and Phuket are at their lowest, the humidity down there is just awful. I think enough Swedes have seen "30 grader i febuari" to know when to come!

  20. Hobbs Guest

    They will get a boost from the World Cup while Doha places a veil over its human rights record, but long term viability is simply not there as Dubai has claim to that desert mirage of tourism friendly authoritarianism. And while AY business class is no match for QR Qsuites, it's still about $2k cheaper, and they have blueberry juice.

  21. stogieguy7 Diamond

    Hoping that Finnair can make this work out well - they seem like a really cool airline. It's a shame that Stockholm didn't apparently work out for them, as SAS could use the competition there (having focused more strongly on CPH in recent years). I do see the quandary that they're in; Asia doesn't work anymore for multiple reasons, and HEL is not a good location to base a TATL operation. Nor is it a...

    Hoping that Finnair can make this work out well - they seem like a really cool airline. It's a shame that Stockholm didn't apparently work out for them, as SAS could use the competition there (having focused more strongly on CPH in recent years). I do see the quandary that they're in; Asia doesn't work anymore for multiple reasons, and HEL is not a good location to base a TATL operation. Nor is it a convenient hub for intra-Europe travel (unless Russia is open, which isn't happening anytime soon). So, this arrangement is worth a try. In addition to the Scandinavian capitals, I could see Finnair perhaps looking at Baltic capitols for service to DOH.

  22. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Finland's economy is having to pivot to the geopolitical realities including the need to join NATO and to be friends with countries that they have not been friends with.
    AY is to be commended for making such a quick pivot.

  23. Phillip Gold

    Do we know if these are in addition to the existing QR services or will they take over existing QR services? If it’s the latter then I would say this is more a Qatar move than a Finnair move given that Qatar need aircraft if they continue playing games with Airbus!

    1. Daniel from Finland Guest

      We don't know yet, but I would very much assume this is all about Qatar suffering from a lack of planes, so they are practically wet-leasing from Finnair (although each flight will have a handful of seats sold by AY directly).

      It will be interesting to see what the service concept is like. AY already flies HEL-DXB and considers those shorthaul flights, so there is no free food in Y and a very meagre tray of hardly-edible food in J.

  24. Tom Guest

    Connecting from Europe to the US via Helsinki is going out of your way. For example London to Helsinki is about a 3 hour flight and it doesn't place you any closer to the US.

    So FinnAir becoming mostly a TATL airline might not work so well.

    Not sad to see the Stockholm flights go, especially as that airport is a bit of a mess right now.

  25. LarryInNYC Diamond

    Is there a possibility for Loyalty Point generation in inexpensive J fares to Scandinavia routed through Doha and accruing based on distance flown plus multipliers? As it turns out I have a business trip towards the end of the year for which of consider paying cash for a $2k r/t.

    Is anyone familiar enough with that nuances to determine how many LP qualifying miles could be generated?

    1. Sam Guest

      https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/partners/partner-airlines.jsp - biz with partners are lucrative on AA. I believe even moreso with QR in the short term. I believe I read something about higher earnings for a limited time with QR.

  26. VJ Guest

    Russian airspace closure for some airlines but not others is likely to become permanent. Good to see Finnair see the writing on the wall and adapting.
    @Lucky - an article on the winners and losers of the Russian Airspace closure will be an interesting topic. United and American are still selling their sfo-blr / sea-blr flights for next year though.

  27. Duck Ling Guest

    It seems very similar to the path QANTAS forged with Emirates years ago (although later abandoned). Instead of flying their traditional SYD/MEL-SIN/BKG/HKG-LHR routes they re-routed SYD/MEL-DXB-LHR with EK operating as the feeder to european destinations other than LHR.

    Although this makes more logical sense for passengers (for example being able to fly from SYD to say Manchester, UK, one stop via DXB, QANTAS abandoned the EK agreement and reverted back to flying to LHR...

    It seems very similar to the path QANTAS forged with Emirates years ago (although later abandoned). Instead of flying their traditional SYD/MEL-SIN/BKG/HKG-LHR routes they re-routed SYD/MEL-DXB-LHR with EK operating as the feeder to european destinations other than LHR.

    Although this makes more logical sense for passengers (for example being able to fly from SYD to say Manchester, UK, one stop via DXB, QANTAS abandoned the EK agreement and reverted back to flying to LHR via SIN (or also via PER) and feeding on to OneWorld partner BA at LHR. They never really said why, but I guess in any 'partnership' with one of the mighty ME3 any other carrier would likely be the 'minor' partner with the larger EK (or in Finnairs case QR) calling the shots.

    1. Hutch Guest

      Except QANTAS hasn't abandoned the EK agreement, they just stopped flying via DXB. The agreement was extended another 5 years. You can still book a QF code on Emirates flights if you want, except now you fly Emirates the entire way.

    2. Luke Guest

      Qantas didn’t abandon its partnership with Emirates. It just stopped flying to/via Dubai. It still code shares with Emirates and you can still book Qantas to/via Dubai on Emirates metal. And many Aussies do.

    3. seat1Cnew New Member

      Agreed, but I'd really prefer Qantas to just join forces with Qatar instead!

    4. Matt Guest

      Agree. When this was done 10 years ago Emirates was significantly larger and more well known in the Australian market than Qatar (probably still are). Plus they had much better European connections. I suspect it was a defensive move from Qantas... Emirates Virgin partnership would have been horrible for Qantas. Although unlikely given Etihad's investment.

      Qatar partnered with Virgin just doesn't make sense from a oneworld point of view.

      But then again Qantas has...

      Agree. When this was done 10 years ago Emirates was significantly larger and more well known in the Australian market than Qatar (probably still are). Plus they had much better European connections. I suspect it was a defensive move from Qantas... Emirates Virgin partnership would have been horrible for Qantas. Although unlikely given Etihad's investment.

      Qatar partnered with Virgin just doesn't make sense from a oneworld point of view.

      But then again Qantas has a strange relationship with oneworld partners. It basically shunned Cathay in favour of China Eastern. And isn't that friendly with Malaysian. It seems to tolerate BA and Iberia, but also friends with AirFrance KLM. I guess its OK friends with JAL.

      Other than AA not sure what significant value Qantas gets out of oneworld.

  28. Kevin Guest

    Qatar airways is short aircraft...they are using Oman Air aircraft currently. This just helps alleviate their aircraft shortage due to the Airbus 350 debacle.

    1. AT Guest

      I still do not quite understand this 'debacle'. If it truly was a serious systemic issue, it would affect the A350s of other airlines too. Yes other airlines have reported paint issues, but none have grounded fleets. This says either that 1. Qatar Airways is being ultra cautious; 2. the paint they use is different and particularly vulnerable; 3. they are trying to use this (unsuccessfully thus far as the courts of law and public...

      I still do not quite understand this 'debacle'. If it truly was a serious systemic issue, it would affect the A350s of other airlines too. Yes other airlines have reported paint issues, but none have grounded fleets. This says either that 1. Qatar Airways is being ultra cautious; 2. the paint they use is different and particularly vulnerable; 3. they are trying to use this (unsuccessfully thus far as the courts of law and public opinion seem to be tilting toward Airbus) as leverage.

    2. Rotuma Gold

      The third reason is the correct one.

  29. AnishReddi New Member

    Are there any laws that prevent Qatar airways from further expanding in the nordic countries, if so by having Finnair operate these routes qatar really wins. Especially with their current shortage of planes.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Gerry Guest

I know what airline is like to be on in this codeshare !! Compare the 2 business class cabins and food ,wines , and service !!! It begins with the letter Q !!

2
Ralph4878 Guest

What's most surprising about this to me (being partly based in BKK) is AY slashing the ARN-BKK and ARN-HKT flights. Swedes love Thailand! Especially in the Scandi winter...I thought these routes would have been popular, though TG also flies nonstop to BKK. Still, a direct flight from Stockholm to Phuket in the winter must have had fans.

2
Tim Dunn Diamond

Finland's economy is having to pivot to the geopolitical realities including the need to join NATO and to be friends with countries that they have not been friends with. AY is to be commended for making such a quick pivot.

2
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