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Helsinki-Tokyo flights to take four hours longer as airline forced to avoid Russian airspace

Finnair service to resume on 9 March

Helen Coffey
Friday 04 March 2022 11:09 GMT
Finnair is resuming Tokyo flights
Finnair is resuming Tokyo flights (Getty Images)

An airline is set to resume flights from Helsinki to Tokyo – but the journey will take almost four hours longer as it’s forced to avoid Russian airspace.

Finnair pressed pause on the route after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked international flight bans, with the UK, US, EU and Canada blocking Russian aircraft from their skies and vice versa.

All of the airline’s Finland services to China, Japan and Korea were cancelled up to and including 6 March.

The carrier has now announced that Tokyo flights will restart from 9 March, with a new flight path that circumvents Russian airspace.

However, the rerouting means Finnair’s planes will have to fly either south or north of Russia – depending on wind – to avoid Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian airspace.

The move means the flight will take around 13 hours – almost four hours longer than the previous journey time.

“Japan is one of our most important markets, and we want to continue offering safe and reliable connections between Helsinki and Tokyo,” said Finnair’s chief commercial officer, Ole Orvér, of the decision to create a new flight path.

“Japan is also an important cargo market, and air connections are needed to keep cargo moving.

“We continue to evaluate possible alternative routings for our flights to China and Korea and will communicate on these as soon as the plans are finalised.”

Finnair will operate the Helsinki-Tokyo flight four times a week: on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

The airline formerly boasted the fastest Europe to Asia flight times, thanks to a bilateral agreement that enabled it to fly over Siberia.

Meanwhile, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has been forced to use circuitous flight paths to avoid international airspace bans.

Last Sunday, Russian Aeroflot flight SU2091 flew an elaborate curve around Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania while travelling from Belgrade to Moscow, adding three hours and 40 minutes to its journey time.

Aeroflot’s SU157 flight from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to Moscow was also forced to make an exaggerated upward curve on Sunday night, skirting the east coast of the US and flying south over the east of Finland in order to reach home base.

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