Since restrictions were lifted, demand for air travel has come roaring back, first in leisure and, after the summer, in corporate travel. If there was a discussion at the height of the pandemic about whether people would want to travel again or companies would want their representatives to meet face to face, we can now put that to rest.
Going into 2023, Russia’s airspace closure is affecting our airline, Finnair, significantly in terms of Asian traffic. There are also energy costs: jet-fuel prices are at historically high levels and fares have been increasing. But over the summer demand for air travel returned faster than supply, so many European airlines had their capacity constrained. At least 100,000 jobs vanished during the pandemic but 88 per cent of Europe’s capacity has come back. This demand will hold up pretty well because people want to travel, even though there will be a recession next year.
We’re targeting carbon neutrality and want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 per cent by the end of 2025. Sustainable aviation fuels and biofuels will be very important. On some short-distance domestic routes, we’re replacing flights with bus services. In the medium term, we will look into innovative engine technology and new types of fuel-efficient and carbon-efficient aircraft.
We’re also introducing a Premium Economy cabin, a completely new travel class. Our seats, made with Heico, are spacious and will hopefully provide a comfortable experience. We’re in the middle of a €200m investment and we’ll be finalising that rollout to all of our long-haul aircraft by the end of next year.
Topi Manner is the CEO of Finnair and he spoke to Monocle in ‘The Forecast’, which is on newsstands now.