Finnair President and Chief Executive Officer Pekka Vauramo
executive impact

Flying high: Finnair cements its place as a leader in Europe–Japan travel


Thirty-five years ago, Finnair Plc was the first European airline to fly non-stop scheduled flights from Europe to Japan. Since then, the airline has seen great success in the Asian market, especially in Japan—their number one destination in Asia in terms of sales.

BCCJ ACUMEN sat down with President and Chief Executive Officer Pekka Vauramo to talk about the firm’s growth in Japan, their interest in the UK–Japan route and future prospects.

Promising Growth 

With a current growth rate of about 20%, Finnair is expanding at a strong rate, and they expect their long-term growth to be somewhere near 10%.

“Growth means that we will have new aircraft and more destinations, and we add more frequent flights to more destinations—we will do both”, Vauramo said.

As regards Helsinki–Japan traffic, the airline has an impressive track record. When Finnair first started, they offered one flight weekly, but today the number has shot up to 31 flights, an increase of almost 43% over the past four years. And by adding Japan Airlines’ (JAL) seven flights a week thanks to their alliance, Finnair now boasts 38 weekly flights between Helsinki and Japan.

Optimal gateway 

Although Helsinki offers convenient access to anywhere in Europe, Finnair’s network is primarily built on the fact that Helsinki has the shortest distance between European destinations and Northeast Asia. This means that the airline can travel from Helsinki to big cities in Asia and return their aircraft within 24 hours.

“We can fly with the same aircraft to the same destination every day”, said Vauramo. “And we get an extremely high utilisation rate from the aircraft.

“We fly to more than 100 destinations in Europe, to 20 destinations here in Asia and to four or five destinations in North America, so we concentrate on Europe to Asia primarily”.

After Paris, Helsinki serves as the second-biggest gateway from Japan to Europe, and for travellers to the UK who fly through Helsinki, there are comfortable benefits. Besides the convenience factor of a mere 35-minute connection, flying through Helsinki is the shortest and fastest flight to and from Japan that passengers can catch.

“Even for cities such as London, Helsinki is the fastest way to go”, Vauramo remarked.

Through Helsinki, UK passengers are offered an increased number of destination choices, includ­ing Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka and Manchester.


Regarding the significance of the oneworld alliance, Vauramo emphasised the role of airline cooperation.

“Of course, people like to choose direct flights if there are direct flights, but there are so many combinations of cities and destinations that people’s schedules dictate their needs, and the natural way to serve those needs is to cooperate within an alliance”.

For Japan flights, Finnair is allied with JAL, British Airways and Iberia.

Personal service 

When asked about planned upgrades, Vauramo explained how they choose their next steps.

“When we finalised our cost-cutting programmes, we studied what people value in an aircraft and, to our surprise, what people value most is the personal service that they get on board”.

With personal service ranked above flight prices, meals on board or the aircraft itself, Finnair plans to personalise their service through staff training so they offer something personal and don’t just follow a script.

“We work together with our people; we are not fighting with our people, as many airlines tend to fight. I don’t think it’s a good combination to fight with your own people and request good service”.

Other areas that have seen an upgrade include on-board meals and the service in Helsinki Airport. On every Narita–Helsinki flight, passengers can enjoy a signature menu specially designed by Rika Maezawa, chef at the restaurant Nanakusa.

“That localisation is something we do in different markets—we’ve done the same in China and London”, Vauramo said.

Adding to the top-notch Finnair service are Japanese translations and guides in Helsinki Airport.

“Our growth is definitely focused on travel between Asia and Europe, and vice versa. That is the Finnair growth strategy”, Vauramo concluded.

Custom Media publishes BCCJ ACUMEN for the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.


©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

After a friend of mine walked into Helsinki airport I never saw him again - he had disappeared into Finnair.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I will take again a Finnair to Japan only if I have to.

Very bad quality price about my last year summer flight.

Good after sales service though as I was reimbursed some 80 euros because of day late arrival of a luggage

Take Korean air or Jal.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Flown this route to London a couple of times. Only added an hour to the journey times at a very compelling price. Helsinki airport is small (but expensive) and makes the change of aircraft easy.

If you’re on a budget it’s a viable alternative to Aeroflop.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I've found Finnair and Helsinki to be really good. The A350 is nearly as comfortable as the 787 and a shorter 10ish hour flight to Europe is nice. For some reason it feels physically and psychologically better than going that extra two hours to connect in Frankfurt or Paris. A good airline for irrationally impatient people I guess.

On a lighter note, one thing that always strikes me at Helsinki airport is how blonde the staff are. It takes a while to adjust if you're coming from Japan and used to seeing Japanese features everyday.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They are too expensive. Cheaper to fly to London via Seoul (amazing airport) with Asiana or Korean Air.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've got some cheap flights with Finnair in the past. Cheaper than JAL. I only travel Asiana when they have a sale on.

The 35 minute transfer time at Helsinki to the UK is a bit tight though, as the security queues are long and slow.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Did this last summer, but I guess I was just unlucky. Changing in Helsinki I had to run to make the connections, with no time to admire anything. Their plane to Kansai had some kind of an electrical fault, so no reading lights and no movie screens for the whole flight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They used to be excellent in business class. Used to be.

Now it is even impossible to exchange your miles for products unless you pay on top of your points an amount almost equal to the retail price. Pure robbery.

And my mileage points where taken even though I could prove I was in the medical impossibility to make the flights.

i regret, because, it is the shortest route into Europe from Japan and they were helpful bringing my two dogs into Japan, ( regretfully later stolen from me) .

Helsinki airport could be convenient but in the last 10 years I have always seen it “ under construction “ . The European business is a joke. Always overcrowded

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Finnair have usually been excellent to me and got me out of a bad weather scrape when no other airline could.

British Airways have really improved, as well. Credit where credit's due. United Airlines and Ryanair, in the meantime are the worst airlines on the planet, imho.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The most Finnish-looking man in the world. Ever. Terve!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites