DALLAS – Today in Aviation, forty years ago, Helsinki-based Finnair (AY) operated its first direct flight to Tokyo-Narita (NRT), Japan in 1983. The maiden service marked another milestone, making AY the only airline to offer non-stop flights between Western Europe and the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’
The non-stop flight was made possible following the arrival of a specially modified DC-10-30ER. The tri-jet had additional 12,048-litre fuel tanks, meaning it was able to fly directly over the North Pole and Bering Strait. Previously, flights to Japan were required to route via Moscow or Alaska owing to Soviet airspace restrictions.
This cut the journey time on the 11,024km route to 13.5 hours, giving AY the unique position of offering the shortest route between Europe and Asia.
The airline capitalized on this and became the go-to choice for many customers travelling to Japan. It expanded its offering and, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, operated to more Japanese destinations than any other European carrier. This included Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Japan and Fukuoka, which launched in 2016.
After the pandemic, the airline returned to NRT on March 9, 2022. On March 26, 2023, AY returned two Osaka, joining its links to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) and NRT.
Making Aviation History
In an official press release from Finnair, Pasi Kuusisto, the airline’s General Manager of North America, said, “Finnair made aviation history 40 years ago this week, and has remained one of the key airlines connecting the world 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.”
Featured Image: Finnair F-WZGY (OH-LWL) Airbus A350-900. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways.