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Finnair Flights Over the North Pole Mean Special Certificates for Passengers (Due to Russian Airspace Closure)

Written by Charlie

If you ever wanted to fly over the North Pole, here is one way to do it and get a certificate showing that you did! Here is what Finnair is doing.

When Russia closed their airspace to carriers from Europe, it impacted many routes for several of the airlines. However, Finnair was the airline which was impacted the most on their Asian routes due to the closure. They started coming up with acceptable detours and that now includes the North pole.

Finnair Flights Over the North Pole = Special Certificates for Passengers

In early March, Finnair suspended their flights to Osaka and Hong Kong until the end of April due to the Russian airspace closure. But, they kept their flights to Shanghai and Tokyo as well as many southern Asian destinations since those are not as impacted by the closure.

Apparently, Finnair was the first airline to fly non-stop from Europe to Japan (back in 1983) and they did so by flying over the North Pole so this is not a first for them. The flights to Asia will mostly detour south and around of Russia while the return flights from Seoul and Tokyo may go over the North Pole. Tokyo is likely the one to use this route the most.

Whether or not this happens is based on the winds. Flying from Asia to Europe adds time on anyways (up to two hours longer for Shanghai to Helsinki than the outbound) so they are using the winds on the return to decide whether to go the northerly route.

On March 9, the Finnair flight (AY073) from Helsinki to Tokyo’s Narita airport took flight over the North Pole. This was how they were able to resume service that would have otherwise been blocked by the Russian airspace closure.

This story gives a nice look at what went into the planning for this new, alternate route. Due to the route, they had to coordinate for possible divergent landing airports in areas they had not previously used (Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, and Japan). The flight time was 12 hours and 54 minutes in the Airbus A350, just 2 minutes longer than they had planned.

One of the captains for the flight, Aleksi Kuosmanen, had the distinct pleasure of flying over the North Pole like his father did as part of the flight deck on that 1983 flight that first went over the pole. The captain said that the “only noticeable difference was that the good old magnetic compass that we have in the flight deck went a bit haywire“. Given that this was just a backup, there were no problems with their navigational equipment onboard.

So, if you happen to be flying Finnair to Tokyo during this time, you may very likely earn yourself a special certificate signifying that you flew over the North Pole. That will certainly not be something many passengers will have!

The special certificate for flying over the North Pole

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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