How the war in Ukraine transformed Finnair

On the eve of IATA's AGM in Istanbul, Finnair looks a lot like a microcosm of the industry’s challenges and resilience.

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Release Date
June 2, 2023
How the war in Ukraine transformed Finnair
In the years before 2020, Finnair did a strategic analysis to game out the worst-case scenarios that could disrupt its business. Among the two greatest risks for the Helsinki-based carrier were a global pandemic and a geopolitical event involving Russia, with which it shares an 830-mile border. By February 2022, both of Finnair’s direst predictions had come to pass.

While the pandemic dealt an almost equal blow to airlines around the world, and COVID’s ebb allows them to imagine a return to 2019, for Finnair, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine obliterated any such hopes. It saw its most profitable franchise, connecting North Asia with Europe, evaporate almost overnight. And there’s very little likelihood it will return in the foreseeable future. For Finnair, comparisons to 2019 became irrelevant the day Russian tanks rolled over the border into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, starting the largest land war in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

Related: The airlines that win and lose with Russian airspace closed

Finnair, perhaps more than any other carrier, has found itself on the receiving end of a battering ram of issues that have dominated the biggest obstacles faced by this industry over the past three years. 

Those topics, and many others, will be amplified in the coming days as the industry is set to gather for the International Air Transport Association’s annual general meeting in Istanbul. The Air Current will be on the ground, taking the pulse of the global cadre of close to 300 member airlines on the immediate and long-term challenges facing the global economy’s most important enabler.

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