Watch Out For Finnair Flight Cancellations Due To Pilot Shortage & Know Your Rights!

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Finnair is facing a pilot shortage and have been forced to lease planes from foreign operators while also canceling some flights including four long-haul flights (Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai & Tokyo) this past Sunday.

Finnair Pilot Shortage Flight Cancellations

Some of the pilots are going through Airbus A350 certification reducing the number that can operate flights throughout the spring. It doesn’t help that the airline and pilots have not been able to find resolution for a new collective agreement that has lead to pilots “work-to-rule”.

YLE (Finnish public broadcasting company) wrote about this (access here and here) of which below is an excerpt:

National airline Finnair announced Monday that it was making preparations for possible flight cancellations as pilots embark on a work-to-rule.

The pilots’ union is involved in collective bargaining negotiations with Finnair to secure new contracts to replace the agreements that expired on November 15.

As a result, pilots will not be available to operate additional flights or to substitute for sick employees. Finnair said that the work restrictions mean it may not have enough pilots to operate some flights.

The company said it likely would wet lease aircraft to substitute for flights cancelled on European routes.


Finnair has already wet leased Iberia to operate three weekly Helsinki – Miami flights and two planes with crews from Airberlin to operate European flights. There is also HiFly operating some flights to New York on Finnair’s behalf.

Affected passengers should remember that Finnair is bound to EC 261/2004 regulation that requires the airline to rebook the affected passengers to their final destination using the most convenient option (for the passenger – not the airline).

This means that rerouting to airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar, Lufthansa etc. is an option. Finnair is unlikely to offer this, however, unless specifically requested. If the passenger is flying via Helsinki, best option would be to get the Finnair to rebook from the passenger’s home airport (rather than being stranded in Helsinki for a day).

One can argue that pilot shortage due to certification and “work-to-rule” is certainly not an exceptional circumstance per EC 261/2004 (Finnair surely will try to argue that) and cash compensation thus would also apply if the delay to the final destination is long enough. You may have to get court or national enforcement body involved to get Finnair to pay up.

The airline just didn’t hire enough pilots to operate the schedule and has relied pilots on voluntarily basis to fly more than their monthly requirement is while not exceeding their maximum (monthly/yearly) flight hours.

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  • Henry Larsen

    >The airline just didn’t hire enough pilots to operate the schedule…

    Kiitos, John. If this were FlyerTalk, someone would immediately jump in to blame the union.

  • karl

    My friend is currently stuck in Helsinki, on his way back from BKK onwards to MAN. Outbound flight from BKK left 3.5 hours late meaning he missed the connection to MAN. So, Finnair have put him in the Holiday Inn for the night and he now flies to MAN at 6AM via MUC.
    And exactly the same thing happened to him this time last year. Again with Finnair.

    • Should be easy 600 euros as EC 261/2004 compensation, although you need to get national enforcement body in the UK to get involved or otherwise Finnair won’t pay.

  • Rachel

    I’m battling with Finnair at the moment over a 4 hour delay that I experienced on New Years Eve 2016 flying Helsinki to Kuusamo. Finnair are arguing that compensation is not payable as the delay was due to pilot sickness and work to rule action. My understanding is that neither are regarded as “exceptional circumstances” and therefore compensation is due. I welcome views from anyone who has experienced a similar situation.