Foreign Ministry’s repatriation flights have ended

Foreign Ministry’s repatriation flights have ended

The repatriation flights arranged by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis have ended. Altogether 16 flights were carried out, with a total of 3,227 tourists returning to Finland or through Finland to their home country in Europe. Around 2,000 of the passengers on the flights were tourists returning to Finland.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs organised repatriation flights for tourists following a decision made by the Government on 24 March.

“The aim of the flights was to enable a reasonable return journey from destinations from which there was no real possibility to return due to the disruption of commercial flight connections. In many countries, commercial flight operations were prohibited but repatriation flights were allowed. The first repatriation flights were arranged from Cyprus and Portugal on Friday 27 March 2020, and the last flight was from the Canary Islands on Friday 8 May 2020,” said Head of Unit Antti Putkonen, who was responsible for the repatriation flights.

When a flight was commissioned, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in line with the Government’s decision, guaranteed the operating costs of the flight if the revenue from ticket sales was insufficient to cover the costs. 

The total cost to the State of the repatriation flights was EUR 354,838.

Some of the flights were carried out without costs to the State, meaning that ticket sales were sufficient to cover the costs. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Department for Rescue Services at the Ministry of the Interior, has applied for co-financing from the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism for two flights (from Havana, Cuba and Bangkok, Thailand). The co-financing was sought because ticket sales covered only part of the costs of the flights. If the applications are accepted, the Finnish State will be reimbursed by the Commission for these flights. 

The Foreign Ministry’s repatriation flights were arranged in cooperation with Finnair. Tickets for the flights were sold via Finnair’s normal ticket sales, online or by phone. 

Information about the flights was communicated through a variety of channels, the most important of which were direct messages to tourists who had filed a travel notification. Especially in destinations outside of Europe, the Finnish Embassies assisted in obtaining the permits needed for the flights and in making the necessary permit and transport arrangements for tourists. Information on the repatriation flights arranged by Finland was also shared as part of the coordination of consular matters in the Nordic and EU countries.