FINNAIR on Thursday announced it is resuming domestic flights to five regional airports after a several-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic but discontinuing them altogether after the upcoming winter season.
The Finnish majority state-owned airline said it will operate commercial flights to airports in Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kemi and Kokkola between 25 October and 27 March.
The flights, the profitability of which was an issue also before the pandemic, will be discontinued due to the travel restrictions imposed to mitigate the pandemic in Finland. Finnair is currently set to operate only 70–80 flights a day next month, signalling a year-on-year drop of at least 270 from the previous year.
The airline suspended commercial flights to the five airports last April. They are being resumed temporarily in an attempt to meet the needs of tourism and export-oriented companies, according to Mikko Turtiainen, the director of global sales at Finnair.
“We recognise the importance of flight connections to the economies of regions and seek to respond to the demand for flights arising from the tourism industry and export companies,” he commented. “These flights will make some connections possible during the upcoming winter season while a task force mulling over the future of regional flights is exploring options to maintain the accessibility of the regions.”
The Ministry of Transport and Communications has stated that its objective is to ensure the seamless continuation of flights to the airports also after 27 March. A task force appointed by the ministry has proposed that the state iron out a service purchase agreement to provide the flights until the end of 2021.
Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kemi, Kokkola and Pietarsaari, alongside joint municipal authorities, regional chambers of commerce and provinces, have held talks with several airlines about the flights since last summer.
News of the resumption of flights after a several-month hiatus – even if only for the time being – was welcomed at and around the regional airports.
“The best news is that the services that came to a halt due to the coronavirus will get going again at Kokkola-Pietarsaari Airport. That’s a really big and positive thing for our export industry,” Jonne Sandberg, the development director at the City of Kokkola, said to YLE.
“It’s a big thing for the regional municipality that the solution was found,” echoed Sari Moisanen, a regional head at Sea Lapland Development Centre. “The mood is currently quite relieved because Finnair has promised to operate the winter season. These decisions create an outlook that there’s a desire that our export industry recovers as quickly as possible. And the export industry needs flight connections.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT