100 years of Finnair: 100 facts from this charming airline


The 100-day countdown to Finnair’s 100th anniversary celebrations has begun. There have been many interesting developments at the world’s sixth oldest carrier still operating over the century, as you can see.

Here are 100 memorable firsts as the Finnish flag-carrier approaches its 100th birthday:

  1. Finnair was founded on 1st November 1923
  2. Finnair is the sixth-oldest airline in the world that is still in operation (the others are KLM – October 1919; Avianca – December 1919; Qantas – November 1920; Aeroflot – July 1923; Czech Airlines – October 1923)
  3. Finnair was originally named Aero
  4. The airline’s code is AY, which stands for Aero Osake-yhtiö (“yhtiö” means “company” in Finnish)
  5. The airline is the official flag carrier of Finland
  6. Finnair’s colour palette of blue and white is based on the Finnish national flag’s colours of blue and white
  7. During its first year of operation the airline carried a total of 269 passengers
  8. Aero – which became Finnair – received its first aircraft in 1924, a German-made Junkers F13 (the F13 was the world’s first all-metal commercial aircraft)
  9. The Finnair-operated Junker F 13 carried just four passengers, in addition to seating for the pilot and an engineer
  10. As there were no commercial airfields in Finland, the Junkers it flew were seaplanes, using skis in winter and floats in summer

    Where it all began: Aero’s Junkers F13 from 1924

  11. Finnair’s first flight was to Tallinn, Estonia in 1924, carrying 162kg of mail
  12. Half of the fleet was requisitioned by the Finnish Air Force and between 1939 and 1940. Half the airline’s passengers from other Finnish cities were children being evacuated to Sweden
  13. During World War Two, Finnair was put under military control and only went back to commercial use in 1944
  14. In 1946, the Finnish State acquired a majority holding in the airline
  15. Aero started using the name Finnish Air Lines on its fleet livery in 1947
  16. In 1947 Aero recruited its first female cabin crew, who flew on domestic routes from Helsinki to Kemi and Kuopio
  17. Finnair joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 1949
  18. Helsinki Airport officially opened in June 1952, and has been Finnair’s home ever since
  19. The Helsinki Olympic games in 1952 increased Aero’s passenger number to over 100,000 for the first time
  20. In 1953 Aero started using the name Finnair, even though it didn’t officially adopt the name until 1968
  21. Finnair’s first flight to London took place in 1954

    Finnair’s inauguration flight to London in 1954

  22. Finnair became the first western airline to fly to Moscow, in 1956
  23. In 1960 Aero became the first small airline to enter the jet age, with its new Caravelle passenger jets
  24. In 1961, Finnair added Rolls-Royce Avon-engined Caravelles to its fleet
  25. Finnair became the first airline in the world to operate a jet passenger aircraft with a flight crew of two people, instead of the normal three
  26. Finnair’s Aviation Academy opened in 1964
  27. By 1967, 95% of Finnair’s scheduled flights were operated by jets

    High style: Finnair’s 44-seat Convair 340/440 Metropolitan passenger aircraft from 1953

  28. In 1968 Finnair carried a million passengers for the first time in its history
  29. Finnair underwent a brand refresh in 1968 and launched a new brand logo, which is still recognisable today
  30. Finnair flights from Helsinki to New York via Copenhagen and Amsterdam began in May 1969

    Finnair’s cabin crew uniform from 1969, designed by Anna-Liisa Nieminen and Nana Suni

  31. In 1975 Finnair received its first wide-body aircraft, the DC-10, which could carry nearly 300 passengers
  32. Finnair started its expansion to Asia in 1976, with direct flights to Bangkok
  33. The carrier launched its first trademark ‘shorter route’ service to Asia in 1976, with direct flights to Bangkok
  34. Finnair first flew over the North Pole in 1983
  35. Finnair was the first airline to operate non-stop flights between Western Europe and Japan when it started flying to Tokyo Narita airport in 1983
  36. Finnair became the official airline of Santa Claus in 1983

    Just fabulous: Finnair marked its place in the jet age with this futuristic cabin crew uniform from 1969, designed by Kari Lepistö

  37. In 1986 Finnair was the first airline to acquire satellite telephones, which were fitted to its DC-10 aircraft, enabling passengers to call from the aircraft to anywhere in the world
  38. Finnair received its first Airbus aircraft in 1986
  39. Direct flights from Helsinki to Beijing began in 1988, making Finnair the first Western European airline to offer non-stop flights between Europe and China
  40. Finnair was the launch customer of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 in 1989
  41. After years of negotiations Finnair, in 1991 was permitted to fly over Siberia on its direct flights to Tokyo, cutting flight times by three hours
  42. The Finnair Plus programme was introduced in 1992
  43. The first call using a satellite phone installed in Finnair’s fleet of MD-11 aircraft was made on flight AY1507 to Las Palmas
  44. Finnair launched flights to Osaka in 1995, opening up the airline’s second destination in Japan
  45. In 1995, Finnair launched its first website, and in terms of content and scope, the airline says it was one of the most comprehensive in the world offered by any carrier at the time
  46. Finnair’s collaboration with popular Finnish comic characters, the Moomins, began in 1997
  47. Finnair joined the Oneworld alliance 25 years ago, in 1998
  48. In 1998 Finnair became the first airline in Europe to acquire defibrillators
  49. Finnair received its first Airbus A320 series aircraft in 1999
  50. All Finnair’s flights became non-smoking when smoking was prohibited on flights to Tokyo and Osaka in 1999

    A key moment for Finnair in 2022, when it launched premium economy, designed with HAECO and Tangerine

  51. Finnair’s flights to Hong Kong first began in 2002
  52. Finnair’s services to Shanghai began in 2003 and it became the only Northern European airline, as well as the only Oneworld airline, to offer direct flights to China’s biggest city
  53. In 2004 Finnair introduced the world’s first mobile phone service that enabled customers to check-in in advance for flights via a text message
  54. Finnair has operated flight AY 666 to HEL since 2006, which has flown numerous times on Friday 13th
  55. Finnair’s long-haul fleet modernisation was initiated in 2007 when it ordered several new Airbus A330 and A340 wide-body aircraft to replace its MD-11 fleet
  56. In 2007 Finnair was the first airline to order the Airbus A350
  57. Finnair partnered with Angry Birds in 2011 to create the “longest ever flight of Angry Birds”
  58. Since 2012, Marimekko, the famous Finnish design-house, has been an integral part of the Finnair air travel experience, with its signature spotted designs appearing on blankets and amenity kits
  59. Finnair celebrated the 90th anniversary of its maiden flight in 2014. By this time there was a Finnair aircraft flying somewhere in the world every hour of the year
  60. In 2015 Finnair was the first European airline to operate the Airbus A350 XWB (and Aircraft Interiors International was on board)

    Finnair opted for the Zodiac Cirrus III catalogue seat for its A350 business class, launched in 2015. Key factors in the design of the cabins and lounges were fresh Nordic design and use of the Space Alive concept, developed by Helsinki-based studio, dSign Vertti Kivi. The concept used lighting and physical elements to transform the atmosphere and functions of a space throughout a period of time such as a day or the duration of a flight

  61. In 2017, Finnair increased its passenger numbers by over one million and flew almost 12 million passengers across its global network
  62. In 2018 Finnair introduced internet connectivity to its short-haul European flights
  63. In 2019, Finnair joined the Nordic-led Initiative for Electric Aviation, which supports the development of electric aviation
  64. In 2021 Finnair dismantled and recycled a 21-year-old A319 aircraft at Helsinki Airport – the first commercial airliner to be recycled in Finland
  65. In 2021 Finnair began flying from Stockholm-Arlanda to cater for increased leisure demand during the pandemic
  66. In February 2022, Finnair unveiled its $220 million investment in cabin interiors, with a new sofa-style AirLounge business-class seat (Finnair is launch customer) and its first ever premium economy cabin (Aircraft Interiors International was again on board for the reveal). You can find out all about the AirLounge seat in our in-depth story HERE

    AirLounge is a key component of Finnair’s revitalised long-haul experience. Also note the Ultima Thule glass

  67. Before the closure of Russian airspace in February 2022, Finnair flew to more destinations in China and Japan than any other European airline
  68. In 2022 Finnair became the official sponsor of the Finnish National Ice Hockey Team at the 2022 IIHF World Championship
  69. As part of its renewed strategy in 2022 (largely driven by the Russian airspace issue), Finnair launched new routes from Helsinki to Dallas and Seattle in the USA. Details of other initiatives are available HERE
  70. Finnair opened routes from Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen to Doha in 2022, as part of its new partnership with Qatar Airways
  71. In 2023 Finnair removed inflight retail from its flights as part of a sustainability drive
  72. In 2023, Finnair teamed up with Karhu, an iconic Finnish footwear and apparel brand, to design an exclusive sneaker for its ground and air crew. Karhu is actually older than Finnair, dating from 1916. As a bonus piece of trivia, Karhu originally had a trademark three-stripe design on its shoes, which was sold to Adidas in 1952. Now an internationally recognised design, the three-stripe motif was sold to Adidas for the equivalent of 1,600 Euros and two bottles of whisky

    Finnair crew are strutting towards the centenary with these exclusive Karhu trainers

  73. To celebrate Finnair’s centenary, the airline has partnered with the Finnish postal service to create a special stamp
  74. Finnair has been named the ‘Best Airline in Northern Europe’ for 13 years running by Skytrax
  75. Finnair aims to be a carbon-neutral airline by the end of 2045
  76. Finnair’s Platinum Wing lounge at Helsinki Airport is one of the only airport lounges to offer a sauna
  77. Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala’s glassware, Ultima Thule, was introduced on Finnair’s New York route. The classic design is still being used today in Finnair’s business-class cabins
  78. The melting spring ice in northern Finland was the inspiration for the Iittala Ultima Thule line of textured glassware used on Finnair flights
  79. Finnair has painted two of its aircraft with well-known characters from The Moomins: Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden

    Finnair showing its fun side with the Moomins livery

  80. Finnair’s current cabin crew uniform was designed by the Finnish artist Ritva-Liisa Pohjalainen
  81. Currently, Finnair only faces direct competition on two of its long-haul routes – Shanghai and Tokyo Haneda
  82. Finnair serves a million litres of blueberry juice each year, a drink that has become Finnair’s signature onboard drink
  83. Finnair uses ambient light settings on its aircraft to recreate the Northern Lights in the cabin
  84. During the Covid-19 pandemic Finnair sold its business-class inflight meals in Finnish grocery stores
  85. Finnair is the only airline to offer fully-lie flat yet non-recline business class seats for long-haul flights
  86. Two Finnair aircraft – an Airbus A330 and A350 – were painted in Marimekko’s instantly recognisable and bold designs
  87. Finnair has been consistently named as one of the world’s safest airlines

    Finnair’s refreshed long-haul economy cabin. More Marimekko? Yes please!

  88. The Finnish government owns a majority stake in Finnair
  89. Many of Finnair’s long-haul inflight dining options are a fusion of Nordic and Asian dishes
  90. Nordic Regional Airlines (Norra) is 40% owned by Finnair
  91. Finnair employs around 1,700 cabin crew and 900 flight crew, all based in Finland
  92. Finnair repainted one of its Airbus A319s into a ‘silver bird’ retro 1950s Convair livery as part of its 90th anniversary celebrations

    The airline has partnered with the Finnish postal service to create a special commemorative stamp to mark 100 years of service

  93. Finnair has a staff choir, named the Finnair Singers
  94. Finnair flies to 14 destinations within Finland
  95. Finnair has scheduled flights to 89 international destinations
  96. Finnair operates widebody aircraft on its short-haul European flights to London and Amsterdam
  97. During the pandemic, when aircraft were grounded, Finnair launched virtual reality flights to Lapland
  98. Finnair is part of the Transatlantic Joint Business with British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, American Airlines and Level
  99. Finnair currently operates a fleet of 79 short and long-haul aircraft
  100. Finally, Finnair has a signature cocktail named Northern Blush

Aircraft Interiors International is excited about Finnair’s centenary and will bring more news ahead of the big event.

Another Finnair livery: this time with a special 100-year design

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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