DALLAS – Important news coming from Northern Europe as the Chief Executive Officer of Finnair (AY), Topi Manner, has decided to leave the company after five years.
The progress of Topi Manner in the Finnish flag carrier will be marked by one of the most challenging financial periods of the aviation industry, as AY had to face two significant crises – the COVID-19 outbreak and the closure of Russian airspace in just two years.
In a farewell letter, Topi said: “My time at Finnair has been characterized by the exceptional crises we faced. This has been the ultimate stress test for the entire Finnair team…Finnair will always remain important to me. Meanwhile, I am committed to continuing to lead Finnair with my strong team for the rest of my time with this excellent company.”
Manner, who has former experience in leading financial entities such as the Nordea Bank Group, will continue his executive career as the new CEO at Elisa Corporation, a national telecommunications company with more than 100 years of existence.
Great Performance During the Toughest Times
The Finnish flag carrier will turn 100 years old on November 1. Throughout its history, the airline may have endured its most challenging experiences just during the last five years due to continued drawbacks in passenger demand and technological and political obstacles.
Firstly, in 2020, Finnair was severely hit by the sudden and unexpected drop in global air travel demand due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. In the annual 2020 report, AY stated, “During the year, we carried 3.5 million passengers (14.7), and our revenue for the year shrank to 829.2 million euros (3,097.7), a drop of more than 70 per cent on both measures.”
However, just two years after the pandemic started, the airline was hit with the closure of Russian airspace. Finnair, relying heavily on Siberian overflying services between Helsinki (HEL) and China, Japan, and South Korea, was now forced to survive without the most critical piece of their route network puzzle.
To combat the unfavorable situation, several fleet, route, and marketing methodologies saw a 180º turn, as Finnair had to reinvent its operational strategy to remain competitive. Read more on our Airways Special story: “Finnair’s Network Strategy: Finding New Alternatives.”
Pioneering and Controversial Decisions
To maintain a positive financial trend, AY’s board of directors, including Manner, have made many unprecedented decisions that have never been seen on a full-service carrier dedicated solely to regular services like Finnair.
On the one hand, as the Airbus A330 fleet does not have enough range to fly to East Asia under the current restrictions, these have been destined now exclusively not only to operate North American routes but also to be wet-leased to partner airlines that require capacity upgrades such as Qantas Airways (QF) and Qatar Airways (QR).
As well, and probably the most controversial move, the flag carrier of Finland decided on May 16, 2023, that it will be removing the carry-on baggage from the list of essential services in an Economy Class ticket, introducing a new “Superlight” fare for passengers, to reduce delays during boarding on intra-European flights.
Topi Manner will leave Finnair on March 1, 2024, after leaving a memorable legacy for the airline. AY stated, “The search for Manner’s successor starts today.”
Featured image: Adrian Nowakowski/Airways.