Battle of the century: Finnair CEO on navigating “double crisis”

As Finnair kicks off its centenary celebrations, Gordon Smith visits Helsinki to hear how the airline is navigating one of the most challenging periods in its history

What do you do when one of your strongest assets turns into a liability? This was the question faced by Finnair executives in February 2022 when, in a tit-for-tat response to international sanctions brought on by its invasion of Ukraine, Russia abruptly closed its airspace to Western carriers.

Few suffered as badly as the Finnish flag carrier, with its ‘shortcut to Asia’ shuttered indefinitely. Helsinki’s geographic position, barely 130 miles from the Russian border, coupled with associated airspace closures over Ukraine and Belarus has thrown an almighty spanner in the works of what was once an incredibly well-oiled machine. It has forced the airline to get creative and prove that even at 100 years old, there’s still a need to innovate.

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