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.
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.
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.
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?