Pilot labour restrictions cause Finnair flight cancellations


Finnairin kone kentälläFinnair’s Airbus A320 Image: Markku Ojala / AOP

Finnair cancelled seven flights on Sunday due to pilot-negotiated restrictions on overtime work and shift changes. The airline estimates that the cancellations affected about 2,000 passengers.

The carrier announced already in late November that it might have to cancel a few individual flights due to the airline pilots’ working restrictions. The beginning of a new year ushered in new constraints from the representative organisation, complicating the matter even further.

Flights from Helsinki to Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong were cancelled Sunday evening. Earlier in the day, planes to Zurich, Paris and Gothenburg were likewise grounded.

Working on a solution

Finnair said collective labour agreement negotiations were ongoing between the airline and the pilot union to reach a solution and agree on a new labour contract.

Finnair nevertheless predicts that it may be forced to cancel several other flights in the next few days.

Finnair’s head of media relations Päivyt Tallqvist says seven cancellations in one day is a rare occurrence.

“We have a replacement pilot system in place, if for instance a pilot falls ill. But it isn’t always enough to remedy the situation, and we have no other way to organize the flights,” she says. 

Earlier cancellations for the same reason

Even before the union’s new rules, Finnair had been forced to cancel individual flights because of the pilot’s working hour restrictions.

“There haven’t been too many, but today was an especially unfortunate day.”

The airline pilot union Liikennelentäjäliitto has 800 members, most of whom work at Finnair.

Finnair has announced that it will inform its customers of any flight cancellations and delays directly via text message. Persons whose flights are cancelled will be offered an alternative flight.

Ticket owners are also free to postpone the trip free of charge to between 1 January and 31 March 2017, according to seat availability, or fill in a refund application for a return of the ticket fare.