Finnair celebrates 40 year connection with the Land of the Rising Sun

A Finnair Airbus A350 parked on the apron.
Photo Credit: Finnair

This weekend, Finnair will celebrate 40 years of flying to Japan in a major milestone for the Nordic carrier.

Over those four decades, Finnair established a formidable reputation for flying to the Far East and before the pandemic flew to more destinations in Japan, than any other European carrier. 

Finnair’s history with Japan flight operations

Finnair has a long history of flights to Japan, dating back to the 1980s. The carrier’s first flight to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ took off on 22 April 1983, with a new non-stop service to Tokyo-Narita,

It became the only airline at the time to offer direct flights between Western Europe and Japan. 

Technological advancements with extra fuel tanks on its DC-10 aircraft allowed the Nordic carrier to increase the speed of service and forgoing transfers. 

Finnair has been a pioneer in connecting Europe and Asia through its Helsinki hub, and Japan has been an important market for the airline.

Finnair was the first airline to offer a direct flight from Europe to Japan via a polar route, which significantly reduces travel time between the two continents.


Since that inaugural flight, the airline has expanded its presence in Japan by adding additional destinations and increasing the frequency of its flights.

In 1992, Finnair started flying to Osaka, which became the airline’s second destination in Japan. The airline later added Nagoya to its network in 1993.

With the start of direct services to Fukuoka in 2016, Finnair was the first – and only – European airline to operate to five different cities in Japan, including Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo. Finnair flights to Tokyo Narita, via the North Pole, resumed on 9 March 2022.

In addition to providing convenient connections between Europe and Japan, Finnair has also developed partnerships with Japanese airlines such as Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.

These partnerships allow Finnair to offer its customers seamless connections to additional destinations in Japan and throughout Asia.

Finnair comments

Anssi Partanen, Finnair Market Manager UK & Ireland, said: “Finnair made aviation history 40 years ago this week, and has remained one of the key airlines connecting Europe with Japan. 

“We are proud of our links to Japan and Asia, and achieving so many remarkable firsts in a highly competitive aviation sector in what is now our centenary year.

 “Thanks to our geographic position, we have established Finnair as a firm bridge between the West and Asia and will look to rebuild our network while also looking to the US to expand our customer offering.

 “Even during difficult times, Finnair’s fantastic people have come together as one team to take on the challenges of recent years head on and put the airline on course to navigate the next 100 years.”

Photo Credits: Finnair

Network restoration

Finnair is continuing to build back its Asian network with the restart of flights to Osaka in Japan on March 26, complementing existing services to Tokyo-Haneda and Tokyo-Narita. 

These services have been specifically timed to allow easy connections from destinations across the UK and Ireland – including London Heathrow, Manchester, Dublin, and Edinburgh.

While Finnair remains firmly committed to the Far East and Asia, but geopolitical events have forced something of a change in strategy for the airline.

Following the war in Ukraine and the closure of Russian Airspace, the airline has moved towards a more geographically balanced network, connecting Europe to Asia, India, the Middle East and North America.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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