The omicron coronavirus variant and flu season has led to a significant increase of sick leave among staff at Finnair and its partners.
To cope with the resource challenges, Finnair is now reducing its traffic schedule for the month of February by around 20% and offering other flight options to its customers, the company announced on Wednesday in a press release.
The Finnish flag carrier expects these flight cancellations will enable the company to operate "a more flexible schedule" and adapt to the expected rise in sick leave across different functions caused by the Omicron variant of the Covid-19.
“Staff sick leave is now significantly impacting Finnair and airports in Finland as well as throughout the world. We aim to meet these resourcing challenges through the cancellation of flights, to avoid last-minute changes and better manage our customers’ expectations. This will give customers more time to prepare for flight schedule changes and adjust their travel plans if needed,” says Ole Orvér, Chief Commercial Officer at Finnair.
"We are sorry for the inconvenience and disruption this may cause to our customers. However, reducing our traffic program is necessary to better offer a smooth travel experience in the face of the expected resource challenges,” Orvér continues.
The cancelled flights
The majority of the cancelled flights are on routes where Finnair operates multiple daily flights, so many customers will be offered an alternative flight on the same day. These destinations include, for example, services to Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris and Rome.
Changes will also take place to long-haul flights: the inaugural of Finnair’s new Dallas service will move from February to 27 March and the start of the Nagoya flights, and added frequencies to Osaka, will move to the summer season 2022.
Finnair will also reduce weekly frequencies to Singapore to twice a week and to Hong Kong to three. Finnair will be in touch with those customers affected by the cancellations via email and do its best to find alternative flights for them. Finnair will send the new flight details via email and customers can check them online through the Manage Booking or via the Finnair mobile app. Customers with cancelled flights also have the option to apply for a refund for unused tickets.
Unlimited changes until February 2022
During the pandemic, Finnair has offered flexibility for all bookings and customers have been able to change their travel dates without a change fee. Until 28 February 2022, customers can change their travel dates as many times as they need, without any additional change fee. After that, they can make one additional change, the company says.
Customers have already used this opportunity actively, and the change requests have caused backlogs at Finnair’s Customer Service, which has recruited "dozens of new employees to cope with the demand." In most cases, customers can make the change themselves online through the Manage Booking service.
Despite these proactive actions, last minute changes to flights are still possible due to sick leaves or weather-related disruption. In addition, the strike announced by Finnish labour union Pro for 17 January can also cause more disruption and therefore flight cancellations.