The closure of Russian airspace has proven especially challenging for Finnair. The carrier’s “shortcut” connection between Europe and the far east via Helsinki is no longer compelling and it has scrambled to rebuild its operations given the new normal. That now includes cuts to the inflight catering, including a switch to buy-on-board for the second meal on two long-haul routes. The changes take effect from 19 April 2023.
Changes in our in-flight services are part of the many actions we are taking to restore Finnair’s profitability.– Eerika Enne, Head of In-flight Customer Experience
Buy-on-board for Finnair long-haul
Most notable among the changes are a shift in the second meal service on the shortest of long-haul routes. Flights from Helsinki to Dubai or New York City will no longer include a second meal nor even a snack for passengers in economy class. Instead, “snacks and drinks are available for purchase from the onboard menu,” explains Eerika Enne, Head of in-flight customer experience. The scheduled gate-to-gate time on those routes is as long as 8:45, rather a long time to be considered a “shorter” long-haul flight.
The airline also suggests passengers bring their own snacks, “Granola bars, crackers, or cookies are handy because they don’t take up much space or need cold storage and can be carried through security.”
Similarly, the carrier will no longer provide pillows in economy class, noting that “many customers already travel with their own travel pillow, and on long-haul flights, the neck rest supports your head.”
Business class changes, too
Finnair’s business class service within Europe will also see cuts this summer. Hot meals will remain for longer routes, while shorter flights receive a sandwich on board. Champagne will be replaced with a less expensive sparkling wine offering.
Even on the shorter flights a snack will remain for the second meal, at least in Business Class and Premium Economy.
Can Finnair cut to profit?
Gordon Bethune, formerly CEO of Continental Airlines and credited with the massive turnaround of that carrier’s operations under his lead, once quipped, “You can make a pizza so cheap, nobody will eat it. You can make an airline so cheap, nobody will fly it.” And that is a very real risk with moves like this.
Back around 2017 British Airways trimmed its second meal option – even in premium economy – to a pack of cookies or a mini candy bar.
That, too, was a cost cutting measure. And eventually the carrier relented on the cuts.
This is not the first time an airline has trimmed services or shifted to buy-on-board aiming to cut costs. Sometimes it works out OK. Other times competitive pressures see the offerings reinstated. Or more substantive changes happen with the operation.
Either way, these are cuts the carrier sees as critical to survival. And that’s a terrible position for it to be in.
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