Rebalancing Act
Business Traveler US|September 2023
How Finnair CEO Topi Manner led the airline through two external crises to bring it back on track
Andreas Spaeth
Rebalancing Act

FINNAIR’S CEO, TOP! Manner, has had one of the most challenging jobs in the industry, as the Nordic carrier had to radically reinvent itself after the Russian airspace closure. Now back on track, Finnair is celebrating its 100th anniversary in November.

A sparsely populated country on the northeastern edge of Europe, Finland has never been a natural hub for global aviation. But the Finns have always been very ingenious in taking advantage of geography, succeeding in turning their homeland of only 5.5 million people into a major intercontinental hub.

Renowned for its efficient hub in Helsinki, Finnair had thrived for decades as the premier transfer point for Europeans traveling to and from Asia. However, on February 26, 2022, its successful business model abruptly stopped.

Flight AY073—which had been taking a direct route through Russian airspace to reach Japan in less than nine hours—was no longer permitted to do so. As a result of the Russian war on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, Finnair faced a significant challenge, with the Helsinki-to-Tokyo route taking more than 13 hours and covering an additional 3,000 miles to avoid Russian airspace.

Previously employed by Nordea Bank, Manner assumed the CEO position at Finnair in January 2019, bringing an outsider’s perspective to the airline’s headquarters near Helsinki’s Vantaa airport.

His leadership at Finnair enjoyed a brief honeymoon period before the unprecedented pandemic crisis. In early 2022, the Nordic carrier encountered an even greater threat due to its heightened exposure to the repercussions of Russia’s war. This distinguished Finnair from airlines like Air France, which experienced comparatively minimal impact.

This story is from the September 2023 edition of Business Traveler US.

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This story is from the September 2023 edition of Business Traveler US.

Start your 7-day Magzter GOLD free trial to access thousands of curated premium stories, and 9,000+ magazines and newspapers.