Finnair is calling crews back from furlough and opening more routes as it plans for increased demand in summer 2022.
“The latter half of 2021 proved that there is great pent-up demand,” chief executive Topi Manner said after the airline reported 2021 financial results on February 17, 2022.
The carrier returned to operating profit during the fourth quarter of 2021, for the first time since the last three months of 2019, driven by returning travel demand.
Omicron prompted customers to reschedule flights and resulted in increased staff sickness at Finnair and partners, but the carrier said the effects were easing.
“Omicron has proven to be milder than the previous variants and as the Omicron wave starts to wane, European countries are removing restrictions. The pandemic is turning into an endemic phase, where COVID-19 is treated as a regular respiratory infection,” Manner added.
The Finnish flag carrier is expecting operations in the second half of 2022, except for China and Hong Kong, to be closer to pre-crisis levels, with a return to 2019 traffic levels in 2023.
Other European carriers, such as Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air are also looking forward to a pick-up in demand for summer 2022.
While restrictions are easing in Europe, the Finnish flag carrier has had to delay its expectations for a return to significant travel in Asia, one of its key markets.
“We estimate that, aside from China and Hong Kong, by next summer we will be closer to a normal operating environment, even though the opening of Asia is delayed from our earlier estimate,” Manner said.
In October 2021, Finnair had expected Asia would be “meaningfully” open to travelers in early 2022. Now the Omicron wave of COVID-19 has knocked that estimate. While some countries such as Singapore, Thailand and India are open, Finnair now believes other Asian markets will only “gradually” open for travel towards the end of the second quarter of 2022.
In 2021, Finnair’s comparable operating loss came to €469 million ($533 million), an improvement on the 2020 loss of €595 million ($677 million).
Finnair expects losses to continue through the first half of 2022, due to ongoing effects from Omicron, the Asia travel restrictions and rising fuel prices.