Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday. Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.
Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August. The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June.
"We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity. Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill.
Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP.
"We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement onboard," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting the capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.
Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018. On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris.
Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said. Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.