Skift Take

The incoming chief executive inherits a company which has had its business model uprooted by the Russian airspace closure.

Change is in the air at Finnair. The Helsinki-based flag carrier has confirmed that Turkka Kuusisto will be the airline’s new chief executive. The appointment follows the resignation of incumbent Topi Manner in August last year. 

Kuusisto joins the company from Posti Group Corporation, the Finnish mail and delivery business, where he has been CEO since 2020. Earlier in his career, he held senior positions at Nordic financial firm Lindorff Group. 

With the 44-year-old due to start his new role by 11 July, and Manner leaving to join telecom company Elisa Corporation on 15 January, there will be no opportunity for a neat handover between the pair. As a temporary solution, the current Finnair CCO, Jaakko Schildt, will take on the top job in an interim capacity until Kuusisto arrives in the summer.

Why Does Finnair Matter?

The oneworld alliance member punches above its weight on the global aviation scene. Despite Finland having a population of just 5.5 million, Finnair has leveraged its geographic gravity to act as an international hub and self-proclaimed “shortcut to Asia”, linking the likes of Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul to major European cities. 

This well-oiled strategy has come to a spluttering halt twice in recent years. Previously described by Manner as a “double crisis”, the Covid-19 pandemic crippled demand for Euro-Asian travel. Arguably worse was yet to come with the wholesale closure of Russian airspace following the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022. Finnair had relied heavily on flying over Russia as part of its northern shortcut business model. 

The airline primarily flies Airbus planes, and was the European launch customer for the Airbus A350. Embraer and ATR regional aircraft support its short-haul feeder network.

Executive Reaction

In reference to his appointment, Kuusisto described Finnair as an “iconic company” which “embodies Finnish spirit”. He said he was excited and humbled to be offered the position.

Meanwhile, Sanna Suvanto-Harsaae, Chair of Finnair’s Board of Directors noted Kuusisto’s “strong understanding of complex industries and proven people leadership and strategy skills” which she said will benefit the airline as it “moves to the next phase in its strategy”. 

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Tags: aviation, finland, finnair, helsinki, oneworld

Photo credit: Flickr/Valentin Hintikka Valentin Hintikka / Flickr

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