Finnair logoFinnair Plc (Finnish: Finnair Oyj, Swedish: Finnair Abp) is the flag carrier and largest airline of Finland, with its headquarters on the grounds of Helsinki Airport in Vantaa, Finland, and its main hub at Helsinki Airport. Finnair and its subsidiaries dominate both the domestic and international air travel markets in Finland. The largest owner is the government of Finland with 55.8% of the shares. Finnair is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance. In 2006, the airline transported 8.8 million passengers, on a network of 15 domestic and 55 international destinations. In addition there are about 50 seasonal charter-flight destinations. Skytrax ranks Finnair as a 4-star airline.
In 1923, consul Bruno Lucander founded Finnair as Aero O/Y (Aero Ltd). The company code originates from this AY = Aero Yhtiö i.e. company in Finnish. Lucander had previously run the Finnish operations of the Estonian airline Aeronaut. In mid-1923 he concluded an agreement with Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG to provide aircraft and technical support in exchange for a 50% ownership in the new airline. The charter establishing the company was signed in Helsinki on September 12, 1923, and the company was entered into the trade register on December 11, 1923. The first flight was flown on March 20, 1924 from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia, with Junkers F.13 aircraft equipped with floats. The last seaplane service was operated in December 1936 following the construction of the first aerodromes in Finland.
Air raids on Helsinki and other Finnish cities made World War II a difficult period for the airline. The company saw half of its fleet requisitioned by the Finnish Air Force during that time, and it is estimated that during the Winter War of 1939 and 1940 half of the airline's passengers were children for evacuation to Sweden.
In 1946, the Finnish government acquired a majority stake in the company and re-established services to Europe on November 1, 1947. In 1953, it began branding itself as Finnair. In 1961, Finnair joined the jet age by adding Rolls-Royce Avon-engined Caravelles to its fleet. These were later exchanged with the manufacturer for Pratt & Whitney JT8D-engined Super Caravelles. In 1962 Finnair acquired a 27% controlling interest in a private Finnish airline, Kar-Air. Finnair Oy became the company's official name on June 25, 1968. In 1969, it took possession of its first U.S. made jet, a Douglas DC-8. The first transatlantic service to New York was inaugurated on May 15, 1969. In the 1960s Finnair's head office was in Helsinki.
Finnair received its first widebody aircraft in 1975, two DC-10-30 aircraft. The first of these arrived on February 4, 1975 and entered service on February 14, 1975 with service from Helsinki to Las Palmas.
In 1979 Finnair established a subsidiary company Finnaviation for domestic operations, with a 60% stake.
In 1983, Finnair became the first operator to fly non-stop from Western Europe to Japan when Helsinki-Tokyo flights with one McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30ER aircraft were started. Up until then, flights either had to go via Moscow (Aeroflot, SAS, BA) or Anchorage (most carriers), but Finnair circumvented this requirement by flying directly north from Helsinki, over the North Pole and back south through the Bering Strait, avoiding the Soviet airspace. The aircraft was also fitted with extra fuel tanks, taking 13 hours for the trip. The routes through Soviet airspace and with a stopover in Moscow took the same 13 hours, but flights with a stopover at Anchorage took up to 16 hours, giving Finnair a competitive edge. In the spring of 1986, Soviet regulators finally cleared the way for Air France and Japan Airlines to fly non-stop Paris-Tokyo services over Soviet airspace, putting Finnair at a disadvantage.
In 1988, Finnair launched a Helsinki-Beijing route, making Finnair the first Western European carrier to fly non-stop between Europe and China.
In 1989 Finnair became the launch customer for the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, the first of which was delivered on December 7, 1990. The first revenue service with the MD-11 took place on December 20, 1990, with OH-LGA operating a flight from Helsinki to Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Both Kar-Air and Finnaviation became wholly owned by Finnair and were integrated into the mainline operations in 1997. On September 25, 1997, Finnair Oyj (Finnair Plc) became the company's official name. In 1999, Finnair joined the Oneworld alliance. In 2001, Finnair recycled the Aero name again and established Aero Airlines, an airline based in Tallinn, Estonia. In 2003 Finnair acquired ownership of the Swedish low-cost airline, FlyNordic, which operates mainly within Scandinavia. In 2007, Finnair sold all it's shares in FlyNordic to Norwegian Air Shuttle. As part of the transaction, Finnair has acquired 4.8% of Norwegian, becoming its third largest shareholder.
The State of Finland is the controlling shareholder (57.04%). Finnair's stock is listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. As of March 2007, the airline employed 9,447 staff. Finnair is the sixth oldest airline in the world with uninterrupted existence. With no fatal or hull-loss accidents since 1963, it has also been ranked one of the safest airlines in the world.