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Celebrating Finnair’s 100 Years of Flight

Finnair celebrated its 100th anniversary of operations on November 1, 2023. From its origins as a Baltic postal route to the Nordic global connector, it is today Finnair has brought people together for a century. The airline’s anniversary theme is Bringing Us Together.

Finnair: Bringing us together since 1923

Let’s review the airline’s history.

Celebrating Finnair 100 Years

Finnair 100 years

Finnair, founded in 1923, is one of the oldest airlines still in operation today. Over ten decades, it has expanded and established itself as a reputable name in the global airline industry.

1923 -1946 Aero Takes Off

Finnair 100 years

Finnair, originally known as Aero, has a rich history dating back to its establishment on November 1, 1923. In those early days, the airline operated seaplanes called Junkers F 13, which were equipped with skis for winter flights and floats for summer flights due to the absence of land-based airports in Finland. One of Aero’s notable achievements was its inaugural flight carrying mail from Helsinki to Tallinn. Subsequently, in collaboration with the Swedish airline ABA, Aero extended its operations between Helsinki and Stockholm. During its first year of operation, Aero successfully transported 269 passengers.

By December 1936, Aero had transitioned to land-based airfields, marking the end of the seaplane era. However, the outbreak of the Winter War in 1939 led to the military taking control of civil aviation. For security reasons, flights from Helsinki to Stockholm were temporarily relocated to Vaasa. During this period, it is worth noting that a significant number of passengers were children being evacuated to Sweden.

During the Continuation War from 1941 to 1944, Aero once again operated under military authority, with Pori serving as its temporary base. Despite the challenging circumstances, the airline remained resilient and continued its operations.

1946-1949 Aero Began Operations as Finnish Airlines, Joined IATA

Finnair 100 years

In 1946, after the war, the Finnish State acquired a majority stake in Aero, a previously privately owned company. To expand its operations, Aero purchased its first batch of Douglas DC-3 aircraft. The Douglas DC-3 is a highly acclaimed and widely-produced aircraft known for its iconic status in aviation history. Initially used during World War II, some aircraft were repurposed for civilian use and sold to various airlines.

Following this development, in 1947, Aero introduced the name “Finnish Air Lines” on its fleet livery. Additionally, the company employed stewardesses, marking an important addition to its workforce. Initially, they served on domestic routes such as Helsinki–Kemi and Helsinki–Kuopio.

1949 included a significant milestone for Aero as it joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and received the airline code AY, which Finnair still uses today.

Finnair: Foundational 50s

The Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952 marked a significant milestone for Aero, as it witnessed a remarkable increase in passenger numbers, surpassing 100,000. Additionally, June of that same year saw the inauguration of Helsinki Airport, adding to the city’s growing aviation infrastructure.

In 1953, Aero began using the name Finnair for its marketing efforts, although the official name change did not occur until 1968. To expand its fleet, Aero introduced 44-seat Convair 340/440 Metropolitan passenger aircraft alongside its existing DC-3 planes. The Convair aircraft offered faster speed and extended range, allowing Finnair to operate flights to European destinations. In April 1953, Finnair’s first Convair 340, with the registration code OH-LRA, embarked on its inaugural European journey. The route included stops in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf.

In 1954, Aero introduced a new flight route to London via Copenhagen and Düsseldorf. This expansion marked a significant milestone in Aero’s history.

Just two years later, in 1956, Aero made history once again by becoming the first Western airline to establish a route to Moscow after the war.

The Jet Age in 1960: Introducing the Aero Caravelle Passenger Jets

Aero enters jet age

In 1960, Aero made history by becoming the first small airline to embrace the exciting world of jet travel. Their state-of-the-art Caravelle passenger jets took to the skies, marking a significant milestone in aviation.

These groundbreaking planes opened up new possibilities for travel, connecting Helsinki with prominent destinations like Copenhagen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Oslo, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Zurich, and Malmö. With the sleek Caravelles, Aero brought the convenience and speed of jet travel to eager passengers across Europe.

Witnessing the birth of the Jet Age in 1960, Aero’s Caravelle passenger jets paved the way for a new era of aviation, uniting cities and bringing people closer together.

1964 – Finnair Flight Academy Opens as Finnair Expands

Finnair flight academy

In 1964, the Finnair Aviation Academy, now known as the Finnish Aviation Academy, made its debut. During this period, Aero, the parent company of Finnair, expanded its operations and route network, leading to the acquisition of several new Super Caravelle aircraft between 1964 and 1967.

Thanks to these expansions, by 1967, a significant 95 percent of Finnair’s scheduled flights were operated using jet aircraft. This marked a remarkable transformation for Finnair as it embraced the modern age of aviation.

1968: A Remarkable Year for Finnair

In 1968, Finnair reached a significant milestone that would shape its future. The airline unveiled a new logo and officially changed its name, marking an exciting chapter in history. It was also during this momentous year that Finnair achieved a notable feat by carrying one million passengers for the first time.

Finnair DC-8 aircraft

This pivotal year it showcased Finnair’s dedication to growth and innovation, setting the stage for its continued success in the years to come.

In 1969, Finnair launched its flights from Helsinki to New York, with layovers in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. These flights were operated using the newly acquired DC-8 aircraft. On this route, Finnair also introduced the iconic Ultima Thule glassware by renowned Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala. Today, this timeless design is still enjoyed by passengers traveling in Finnair Business Class.

Finnair launches flights to Bangkok

In 1976, Finnair expanded to Asia by offering direct flights to Bangkok. This significant milestone marked the beginning of Finnair’s journey, connecting passengers between Europe and the vibrant destinations of Asia.

In 1983, Finnair made aviation history by introducing non-stop flights to Tokyo. This innovative route, which flew over the North Pole, allowed passengers to travel directly from Western Europe to Japan. At the time, Finnair was the sole airline offering this convenient service.

The Official Airline of Santa Claus

Finnair Official Airline of Santa Claus

Around the same time, Finnair also became the official airline of Santa Claus, spreading the cheer of the holiday season around the world. In fact, Santa himself began his annual visits to Japan aboard Finnair flights, creating a beloved tradition.

As the years went on, Finnair reached new milestones. In 1984, one of their aircraft proudly displayed the livery of Santa Claus, foreshadowing their special partnership. The following year, in 1985, Finnair introduced their iconic blue look across their entire fleet.

Continuing its commitment to innovation, Finnair became one of the first airlines to equip their DC-10 aircraft with satellite telephones in 1986. This groundbreaking technology allowed passengers to make calls from the sky to anywhere in the world. Additionally, Finnair welcomed their first Airbus aircraft the same year.

In 1988, Finnair expanded its reach by offering direct flights from Helsinki to Beijing. This made them the first Western European airline to provide non-stop connections between Europe and China, further solidifying their reputation for pioneering travel experiences.

Pushing the Boundaries of Aviation

Finnair MD-11

Throughout its history, Finnair has always pushed the boundaries of aviation, connecting people and cultures with its exceptional service and forward-thinking approach.

In 1990, Finnair welcomed its inaugural McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 aircraft, marking a significant milestone for the airline. Notably, Finnair became the pioneering carrier to incorporate MD-11s into its fleet, utilizing this spacious wide-body aircraft until 2010.

Another remarkable development occurred in 1992 when Finnair introduced the Finnair Plus program, introducing various benefits for its loyal passengers.

Finnair Moomin Aircraft

In 1995, Finnair opened a new route to Osaka. This was also the year when Finnair launched its comprehensive internet website, one of the most advanced airline services at the time. Another notable event in 1995 was Finnair’s collaboration with Moomin.

In 1997, Finnair made all flights, except those to Japan, non-smoking. Two years later, smoking was also prohibited on flights to Tokyo and Osaka.

The year 1999 marked the arrival of Finnair’s first Airbus A320 series aircraft. It was also the year when Finnair joined the oneworld alliance.

2000’s Challenges and Recovery

Finnair A340 aircraft

After the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, Finnair faced a decline in air travel demand. To adapt, they implemented cost-cutting measures and adjusted capacity. They also increased flight frequency to Bangkok due to the more favorable market climate for Asian traffic.

In 2002, Finnair started flights to Hong Kong and expanded its daily service to Bangkok.

Finnair became the only Northern European airline and the only oneworld airline to offer direct flights to Shanghai when they opened the route in 2003.

In 2004, Finnair introduced online check-in for passengers departing from Helsinki or Stockholm without connecting flights. They also provided the option of text-message check-in for Finnair Plus members.

In 2005, Finnair placed an order for nine Airbus A350 aircraft. Ten years later, they became the first airline in Europe to receive the A350 XWB aircraft.

In 2006, Finnair welcomed its first Airbus A340 aircraft, marking an important milestone for the airline’s long-haul routes.

A significant fleet modernization effort occurred in 2007 as Finnair placed orders for several new Airbus A330 and A340 wide-body aircraft. These state-of-the-art planes were acquired to replace the aging MD-11 fleet.

Finnair embarked on a comprehensive restructuring and cost-saving program in 2011, aimed at achieving a financial turnaround and laying the groundwork for future growth. This was also the year when Finnair established a new direct route to Singapore, expanding its network in Asia to a total of ten destinations.

Setting yet another benchmark, Finnair became the first airline to launch non-stop flights between Europe and Chongqing in 2012.

Finnair continued its expansion into China by introducing direct flights to Xi’an in 2013. Notably, the airline was the only European carrier offering this convenient connection between Europe and Xi’an.

The 90-Year Mark

Finnair A350

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, Finnair reached a remarkable milestone in 2014. The airline achieved the feat of having a Finnair aircraft in flight worldwide during every hour of the year. Moreover, Finnair completed its extensive restructuring and savings program, amounting to 200 million euros.

In 2015, Finnair experienced a remarkable turnaround by returning to profit and achieving significant milestones. Notably, the company received its first A350 aircraft and embarked on an extensive recruitment program to support its expanding operations. The year’s highlight was the launch of Finnair’s inaugural A350 XWB flight, making it the first European airline to operate this state-of-the-art aircraft. The inaugural long-haul service took flight to Shanghai, marking a significant milestone for Finnair.

In 2016, Finnair expanded its direct routes to Guangzhou and Fukuoka, demonstrating its commitment to enhancing its global network. The addition of Fukuoka to its destinations made Finnair the sole European carrier to offer flights to four different cities in Japan. Alongside Fukuoka, Finnair also provided daily connections to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya, and Osaka, strengthening its presence in the Japanese market.

12 Million Passengers Served and Routes Expand

The year 2017 brought further growth for Finnair as it established new routes to San Francisco and Reykjavik. This expansion, coupled with other strategic initiatives, contributed to a significant increase in passenger numbers, surpassing the one million mark. Finnair proudly served nearly 12 million passengers during this successful year.

Finnair continued to enhance its network in 2018 by introducing new routes to Lyon and Nanjing. In addition, the airline introduced internet connectivity on its European flights, allowing passengers to stay connected during their journeys, further enhancing the overall travel experience.

The year 2019 marked the launch of several important routes for Finnair, including Los Angeles, Sapporo, Porto, and Bologna. Moreover, Finnair expanded its presence in Beijing by adding service to the new Daxing International Airport, complementing its existing flights to Beijing Capital Airport. Notably, Finnair introduced its “Push for Change” initiative in January, empowering customers to offset their flights or choose biofuel options. In August, the airline operated its first biofuel flights from San Francisco to Helsinki, highlighting its commitment to sustainable aviation. Additionally, Finnair joined the Nordic Initiative for Electric Aviation, a collective effort to advance the development of electric aviation.

COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2020, Finnair unveiled its ambitious sustainability strategy to become a carbon-neutral airline by the end of 2045. However, the year proved challenging due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Like many airlines, Finnair faced reduced operations, employee layoffs, and the need to provide refunds for canceled flights amounting to over 400 million euros. To generate income and promote the joys of international travel, Finnair introduced “Taste of Finnair” ready-made meals in Finnish grocery stores, providing employment opportunities for its staff.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, Finnair took proactive steps to navigate the crisis. The company implemented comprehensive financing measures and initiated a cost-saving program of 200 million euros. Despite the ongoing challenges, Finnair expanded its route network by introducing non-stop flights from Arlanda Stockholm to popular destinations like Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand, as well as Miami, New York, and Los Angeles in the United States. Furthermore, Finnair achieved a remarkable feat by dismantling and recycling a 21-year-old A319 aircraft at Helsinki Airport. This milestone marked Finland’s first commercial airliner to undergo recycling, symbolic of the airline’s commitment to sustainable practices.

A New Long-Haul Experience with Finnair

Finnair new long-haul experience

Experience the new and improved journey with Finnair! In 2022, the airline announced an investment of 200 million euros to enhance your long-haul travel with exciting features. Get ready for the all-new Premium Economy class, fully revamped Business Class, and refreshed Economy Class.

Finnair offers customers the opportunity to offset their flight emissions, combining Sustainable Aviation Fuel with trusted climate projects to ensure its sustainability.

As the world emerged from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions were gradually lifted by many countries after a long hiatus. However, due to the closure of Russian airspace following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, flight times to Finnair’s Asian destinations have increased significantly. In response to this challenge, Finnair has implemented a new strategy to ensure profitability regardless of the closed Russian airspace.

Finnair has recently launched new routes to Dallas, Seattle, Mumbai, and Tokyo Haneda. Explore these vibrant cities and create unforgettable memories with Finnair.

Finnair 100 Years Together

Video: Finnair: A Century Together

A new Moomin livery to mark 100 Years of Finnair

Finnair celebrates its 100th anniversary by unveiling two special Moomin-themed liveries on their A350 aircraft. In collaboration with Moomin Characters, the airline has given a centenary makeover to two of its Airbus A350 planes: OH-LWP and OH-LWO. These uniquely designed aircraft feature adorable artwork of Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden sharing a heartwarming hug. Throughout the year 2023, these Moomin planes will operate on long-haul routes, bringing joy to travelers around the world.

In addition to the Moomin liveries, Finnair has adorned three other aircraft (OH-LXK, OH-LXM, and OH-LWR) with their special centenary slogan. Join in the celebration as Finnair marks this significant milestone in aviation history.

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