Video: Fascinating Look At Finnair’s Polar Routes

Video: Fascinating Look At Finnair’s Polar Routes

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Here’s an inside look at some of the remote, roundabout routings that Finnair is having to operate…

Finnair’s challenges with Russian airspace

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many airlines have been avoiding Russian airspace. Some airlines have done this voluntarily out of an abundance of caution, while other airlines don’t have a choice, as there are sanctions in place preventing this airspace from being used.

Arguably Finnair is in one of the roughest spots when it comes to this airspace closure. Pre-pandemic, Finnair’s long haul route network consisted mostly of flights to & from Asia, given Helsinki’s advantageous geography for this, as the airline marketed the quickest connections to Asia.

Unfortunately that advantage has now turned into a huge disadvantage, since those quick routings were dependent on being able to use Russian airspace. Now Finnair is having to operate ridiculously roundabout flights to & from Asia, adding significant travel time to all flights.

For example, Finnair’s Helsinki to Tokyo flight now requires first flying south around Ukraine, and then flying over Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, etc.

Finnair’s typical Helsinki to Tokyo routing

Meanwhile Finnair’s Tokyo to Helsinki flight first flies across the Pacific toward Alaska, and then goes almost straight over the North Pole, before flying south toward Helsinki.

Finnair’s typical Tokyo to Helsinki routing

These different routings are based on the winds. Eastbound flights have a tailwind, which is why Finnair still flies east, while westbound flights have a headwind, which is why Finnair flies “over” the earth.

Flying Finnair’s A350 over the North Pole

Gabriel Leigh with Flightradar24 flew roundtrip from Helsinki to Tokyo in Finnair business class, and on the return flight had the incredible opportunity to fly in the cockpit most of the way. If you’re an aviation geek, you’ll absolutely love this video.

The 23 minute video covers almost the entire flight, but it’s particularly interesting to hear from the pilots about what it’s like to be in command of a flight near the North Pole. Admittedly flights have taken Polar routes for a long time, so this is nothing new, but seeing what it’s like inside the cockpit is an opportunity you don’t often get.

Watching this really makes me want to fly this Finnair routing, though ideally in summer, when there are 24 hours of daylight on this routing. Meanwhile when this was filmed it was dark almost the entire way, except a brief bit of light over Alaska.

An interesting video was also published about the outbound flight, but this is filmed more from a passenger experience standpoint, and doesn’t include any cockpit footage.

Bottom line

If you’re an avgeek and have the time, I’d highly recommend checking out a video from inside Finnair’s cockpit on what must be one of the most interesting routes at the moment. Finnair’s Tokyo to Helsinki flight generally flies right along the coast of Alaska, before flying within miles of the North Pole.

I’m putting this flight on my bucket list for the summer, because I’d love to experience this when it’s not dark outside.

Anyone else enjoy this as much as I did?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Jim Napier Guest

    Very cool video!!

  2. Michael Guest

    Beautiful video. Wow! I have added this North Pole flight to my must experience list. Ben, thank you.

  3. Robin Hughes Guest

    How can you allowed in the cockpit while in the air.totally a breach of current IATA and all airline policy please clarify

  4. iamhere Guest

    It must be much longer. Do they price accordingly for people's time or award points accordingly?

  5. Matthew Guest

    Big praise to Gabriel Leigh from Flightradar24, who video reviews flights in such a relaxed but thorough manner. Best man doing this out there. Not these lengthy and self-absorbed videos like from most of this other Scandinavian nonstop dude.

  6. SFO777 Guest

    Hi Ben,

    You might be disappointed regarding - "I’m putting this flight on my bucket list for the summer, because I’d love to experience this when it’s not dark outside." I checked the Finnair site for this routing on June 21, 2023. No direct Finnair flight (NRT-HEL) on that day comes up. I didn't see the direct routing coming up after March 2023.

    1. Hiro Diamond

      It flies from HND. AY operates both from NRT and HND, just no NRT departure flight that day.

  7. Aaron Guest

    Ben, this blog goes from strength to strength. In the past hour, I’ve learned a little trick that will position me better with Air France mileage redemptions, met an intriguing future flight to the Gulf, and now picked up a wonderful aspirational flight through a beautifully produced video. Keep this going!

  8. Andreas Guest

    Many European airlines take the north pole route from Japan, not just Finnair - in fact I have been on the exact same route on LX161 some days ago (from Norway onwards heading south over Sweden to ZRH).
    Some of the crew were equally enthusiastic about that special route and there were 4 cockpit crew for this flight, it is currently LX longest.
    The most bizarre and wonderful avgeeky thing about LX161 taking...

    Many European airlines take the north pole route from Japan, not just Finnair - in fact I have been on the exact same route on LX161 some days ago (from Norway onwards heading south over Sweden to ZRH).
    Some of the crew were equally enthusiastic about that special route and there were 4 cockpit crew for this flight, it is currently LX longest.
    The most bizarre and wonderful avgeeky thing about LX161 taking the polar route is that this flight normally is a day flight, departing Japan around noon and arriving at Zurich in the evening. However now heading east it is an overnight over to Alaska (minus one day) and catching the sunset again over Sweden (in winter).
    Fascinating stuff!

  9. Sb Guest

    Ben random note thought you may be interested. Real ID now pushed to may 2025

    1. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

      Wow. Are you kidding? How come so many people are having a problem getting this? I got mine BEFORE the pandemic and am coming up on a renewal before some have even switched over. Crazy to me.

    2. Sb Guest

      It's pretty ridiculous at this point lol. Going to take 20 years to implement if they don't extend til 2040

    3. Steve Diamond

      I dont get it either but i guess my state has been putting them on their license this whole time and figured with out frequency of required renewals everyone in texas has a new TSA approved real ID.

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

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Aaron Guest

Ben, this blog goes from strength to strength. In the past hour, I’ve learned a little trick that will position me better with Air France mileage redemptions, met an intriguing future flight to the Gulf, and now picked up a wonderful aspirational flight through a beautifully produced video. Keep this going!

2
Andreas Guest

Many European airlines take the north pole route from Japan, not just Finnair - in fact I have been on the exact same route on LX161 some days ago (from Norway onwards heading south over Sweden to ZRH). Some of the crew were equally enthusiastic about that special route and there were 4 cockpit crew for this flight, it is currently LX longest. The most bizarre and wonderful avgeeky thing about LX161 taking the polar route is that this flight normally is a day flight, departing Japan around noon and arriving at Zurich in the evening. However now heading east it is an overnight over to Alaska (minus one day) and catching the sunset again over Sweden (in winter). Fascinating stuff!

2
Matthew Guest

Big praise to Gabriel Leigh from Flightradar24, who video reviews flights in such a relaxed but thorough manner. Best man doing this out there. Not these lengthy and self-absorbed videos like from most of this other Scandinavian nonstop dude.

1
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