Catching up with Consul General: Finnair North America’s Caroline Borawski tells how the airline looks into the future of travel during the “new normal”
How is Finland’s national airline company Finnair holding up during the pandemic which rattled the global travel industry? Ms. Caroline Borawski, Finnair’s new North America General Manager, talked with Ambassador, Consul General Mika Koskinen about their future plans and expectations for the over 50-year-old flagship route between the JFK Airport and Helsinki Vantaa Airport.
Mika Koskinen: Finnair will open flight connections between Finland and the United States again after a long break. Could you please elaborate on your plans a little bit?
Caroline Borawski: After being grounded for nearly a year, we are delighted to finally resume service between Finland and the United States, beginning with our service from New York JFK on March 6. In addition to the JFK service, we will also operate from Chicago (ORD) as of May 1, Los Angeles (LAX) as of June 1, and Miami (MIA) as of November 30. Our goal is to operate over 60% of our normal traffic schedule by July. We will continue to make adjustments to our schedule based on travel restrictions and the return of demand.
MK: Travel restrictions in various capacities are expected to continue to be in place for the foreseeable future. How will Finnair take these restrictions into account, and who will be allowed to board your transatlantic flights?
CB: As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are closely following both the demand and the travel restrictions of different countries and adjusting our traffic plan accordingly. We urge our customers to check the latest entry restrictions via local authorities’ website and appropriate consulate or embassy. Additionally, we are offering our customers the flexibility to make changes to their bookings through our Book with Confidence policy. For all customers traveling with Finnair, we require a certificate of either a negative coronavirus test or of a full recovery from the infection. This requirement applies to all travelers, including citizens of Finland, on international Finnair flights to Finland.
MK: Many of us are concerned about flying under the present circumstances. Can you walk us through some of the health and safety protocols and procedures you will be introducing to ensure your passengers’ safety?
CB: The health and safety of our customers and crew continue to be our top priority. To ensure that you feel safe and comfortable when traveling with us, we have implemented the following measures:
• All Finnair customer-facing staff at the airport will wear a mask.
• Onboard, customers are seated apart from each other whenever possible; seating arrangements are reviewed by our staff at the gate before boarding
• Customers will board the aircraft starting from those seated at the rear of the cabin
• In airport bus transportation, max 50% of the capacity of the bus is used
• Finnair cabin crew will wear surgical masks during the flight
• All customers are required to wear a mask from boarding to leaving the aircraft
• Aircraft cleaning has further been intensified, with a special focus on high-touch areas
• Sanitizing wipes are available for customers onboard
• An adjusted in-flight service concept will help to decrease contact between customers and cabin crew
• Customers are asked to travel light to minimize the amount of hand-baggage in the cabin and avoid unnecessary movement in the cabin
• Disembarkation will happen from front to rear by groups
MK: Finnair has been continuously chosen as the safest airline in the world by aviation experts. How has Finnair been able to maintain leadership in this area for such a long time?
CB: We have maintained our designation as being one of the safest airlines in the world through a number of different measures, including operating one of the most modern fleets in Europe, investing in safety innovation, and also operational excellence.
MK: Finnair has recently announced a new strategy to put sustainability at the heart of its business. Could you tell us more about your sustainability targets and how this strategy will be implemented now and in the post-pandemic world?
CB: As a proud member of the oneworld alliance, we are thrilled to be part of the first global airline alliance to unite to commit to a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. At Finnair, we have committed to reducing our carbon emissions by half by 2025 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. We are working to achieve these goals by utilizing a modern and fuel-efficient aircraft fleet, participating in the early stages of testing electric short-haul flights, and working towards offering more sustainable catering options to our customers.
MK: In 2019, Finnair celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Helsinki-New York–Helsinki flagship route. How would you describe the significance of this connection for Finnair today?
CB: It is through the Helsinki-New York route that Finnair has been able to serve as an ambassador of Finnish culture, particularly through the traditionally Finnish onboard service offering. Not only is New York JFK the flagship route in North America, but New York also continues to be one of the most popular routes amongst the crew throughout the Finnair network!