Tibet Airlines Launching Flights To Helsinki

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Here’s a new route I’m excited about, assuming it launches.

Tibet Airlines has been on my radar for a while. The airline started flying in 2011, and is owned by Air China. Currently Tibet Airlines has a fleet of 29 aircraft, including 24 Airbus A319/A320 aircraft, as well as five Airbus A330 aircraft.

The airline took delivery of their first A330 in mid-2016, but despite that, hasn’t actually launched longhaul operations. Currently the airline exclusively operates flights within Asia, both within China, as well as to select points outside of China.

For quite a while there have been rumors of Tibet Airlines launching longhaul flights, and that’s now closer to becoming a reality.

Tibet Airlines has announced that they’ll launch 2x weekly flights between Jinan and Helsinki as of April 8, 2019. On top of that, the airline will also launch flights between Jinan and Lhasa. The flights aren’t yet on sale, and exact schedules haven’t yet been published.

Now you may be saying to yourself “wait a second, Tibet Airlines isn’t operating their longhaul route to/from Lhasa?” The problem with Lhasa is that the airport is at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet, making longhaul operations extremely difficult.

So while it’s clear that Tibet Airlines can’t fly direct between Lhasa and Helsinki, you’d still think that in general they’re trying to transport people to and from Lhasa, and this route doesn’t exactly look terribly efficient:

Just to do the math, the direct distance between Helsinki and Lhasa is 3,671 miles.

The distance from Helsinki to Jinan to Lhasa is 5,737 miles, so that’s about 57% longer than the direct distance.

So yeah…


If they instead routed through Chengdu, for example, that would reduce the distance by almost 1,000 miles, as the distance would then be 4,832 miles. I’m sure there are other routings that would be even more efficient.

So I’m not sure if this route is because they view there being a huge demand between Helsinki and Jinan, or what exactly, since Jinan isn’t even an airport they fly to as of now.

This route would represent only the second longhaul flight from Jinan Airport, with the other route being Sichuan Airlines’ nonstop flight from Jinan to Los Angeles, which I’ve reviewed.

Sichuan Airlines’ A330 business class

Assuming this Tibet Airlines flight becomes bookable I fully intend to take it. It looks like Tibet Airlines has 12 business class seats on their A330s, spread across two rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. They have standard forward facing seats, so it seems to be a fairly okay hard product. Here’s the only picture I can find on their website of the seat.

Tibet Airlines would be the first Chinese airline to fly to Helsinki. Note that Lucky Air was supposed to launch flights to Helsinki in January 2018 from both Chengdu and Kunming, but that still hasn’t happened, which is why I’m not 100% convinced the Tibet Airlines route will work either.

What do you make of Tibet Airlines’ new route between Jinan and Helsinki? Do you think it will happen?

(Tip of the hat to Chad)

  1. Finland is a big supporter of Tibetan Independence. I’m honestly shocked the Chinese are allowing this route.

  2. I’m heading to Jinan tomorrow. No easy way to get there. Doing DFW-PVG-TNA, gets in after midnight. Other alternatives are DFW-ICN-TNA or DFW-LAX-TNA.
    Not doing this crap on the return… Jinan to Beijing by train, stay a night at the Peninsula through a virtuoso rate and then PEK-DFW.

  3. Lucky,

    Tibet airlines’ main objective is not to transport people from Lhasa. Just like most airlines in China, the name merely means where their hub is.

    There is just not enough population in Lhasa to justify any route, domestic or international. Most domestic flights are to transport Chinese tourists in and out of Lhasa. Besides the elevation factor you mentioned that voids jumbo jets from operating long haul in and out of Lhasa, an international route to anywhere besides nearby Nepal is not politically feasible. Most foreigners cannot visit Tibet without a special permit that most people can only get AFTER you have entered China. A Chinese visa alone will not get you entry, and you have to be monitored by a travel agency or someone during your stay. The plane would be nearly empty if you flight any where international direct.

    There is no direct relationship between the route and the name of the airline. It’s just another Chinese airline getting dibs on the one city pair rule. Hainan airlines and China Southern has a hub in Urumqi in Xinjiang, both Guangzhou and Hainan island cannot be anywhere farther in China.

  4. @Phize

    How exactly does Finland support Tibetan independence? The state most certainly does not take any stand, and I have never discussed this with anyone here, not even friends with whom we go over all kinds of political matters. The situation in Tibet is completely insignificant here.

  5. Not holding my breath. We’ve had at least three or four announcements of some obscure Chinese carrier starting this or that route to HEL. None of them have materialized. The odds might be a bit bigger here, though, as Finavia actually gave a press release. You’d think they’re pretty careful doing that, what with all the past announcements that never resulted in any flights.

  6. Apparently they only want to carry Chinese customers as it seems to be impossible to buy tickets from them on their website which is only in Chinese.

  7. @ Lucky

    Does this mean you intend to visit Tibet in 2019? I would love a trip report please. It’s such a unique & less traveled place. I assume you would be the first travel blogger to do so. Impressive!

  8. Its hilarious the mere mention of “Tibet” sends some self righteous and ignorant westerners into a state of orgasm… lol

  9. @Sir fly a lot

    As someone who has lived and worked in Asia, primarily China for many years and who travels the world for both work and pleasure, I certainly appreciated your comments because I was just thinking the same types of topics when reading the article.

    1. Regarding the local demand in Tibet
    2. Regarding the permits required for Tibet (which are politically sensitive – we often see times that the permits are just not issued)
    3. Regarding the Chinese aviation rules (e.g. about the international routes from various cities)
    4. Some Chinese airlines have multiple hubs (e.g. Hainan uses Beijing as an additional hub)

    It is important to consider the history and sensitivity of the situation in that of why China wanted to bring in Tibet as part of China in the first place and China’s role in the Tibetan area.

    While many posts on this website are useful, I often find that sometimes either expectations in some parts of the world are not matching from prospective or that there are many factors not considered.

  10. Finland supportive of Tibet independence ?
    Someone is high on something.
    The moment that happens, be sure bilaterals would be suspended & bye bye to Finnairs current 6 destinations to China – not going to happen.
    Business first. No one cares about the people.
    Ask the Sami – for starters.

  11. Tibet is based in Chengdu, actually, plus Tibet is a hot travel destination for Chinese at least – you’d spot multiple A330 there a day in summer.
    Due to tourism highly seasonal, in March you can stay in Lhasa St. Regis for $50! Also a lot of foreigners stay at there, so at least it’s possible for you to get permission.

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