Finnair Plc – Nine Decades of Blue-and-White Wings
The roots of Finland’s current flag-carrier airline go back over nine decades. In autumn 1923, Bruno Lucander, a businessperson from Helsinki, founded Aero Ltd – an airline, which started operating regular routes from Helsinki to Tallinn the following spring. The base of operations was the Katajanokka seaplane harbor, in the area currently belonging to the Katajanokka terminal. The German Junkers F.13 -seaplane could comfortably carry four passengers.
Until the Second World War, Aero had established its position, and created a solid route network to Europe. The outbreak of the War, however, severed most flight routes in the continent. During the war years, Aero operated under the Finnish Air Force as a Civil Squadron, maintaining vital foreign connections. After the Wars, the State of Finland secured the future of the airline financially by acquiring the majority of Aero’s stock – thus Aero Ltd became a state-owned airline.
The Moscow Armistice decreed all Finnish aircraft to be temporarily grounded until the war with Germany was over – Aero’s domestic routes re-started in 1945, and foreign air traffic in 1947. After the ban of flying was lifted, Aero started to determinedly re-build its route network. The Scandinavian SAS, formed in 1946 by amalgamating the national airlines of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, became the biggest competitor of the Finnish airline. Up until the late 1960s, Aero concentrated on domestic and European routes, until opening its first Trans-Atlantic route in 1969, to New York. In 1983, the airline opened a regular route to Tokyo.
After the Second World War, the popularity of air travel increased in general. New competitors appeared in the domestic airline business. Most of the competing airlines, however, concentrated in charter flights, for which the increase of tourism created a demand. Aero’s most notable domestic competitor was the Karhumäki Airways or Kar-Air, founded by the Veljekset Karhumäki Ltd (Karhumäki Brothers), which challenged Aero in the 1950s. Kar-Air soon faced financial troubles, however, and Aero purchased its stock already in the early 1960’s – making Kar-Air Aero’s subsidiary. At the time, Aero was growing into a large corporation – nowadays the corporation includes, for example, travel agencies such as Aurinkomatkat (Sun Travels) and Suomen Matkatoimisto (the Finnish Travel Agency).
Nowadays, the airline is specialized in scheduled air traffic between Europe and Asia. This is supported by the geographical location of Helsinki, on the shortest route between Central Europe and Northeastern Asia, as well as the bilateral overflight agreement between Finland and Russia.
In 1968, Aero Ltd officially changed its name into Finnair. The old name is still seen in the airline designator, AY.