Finland wraps up repatriation flights, after thousands brought home

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Finnair were involved in organising flights from around the world to bring Finnish passengers back during the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Embassy staff help passengers at Delhi Airport / Credit: Finnish Embassy Delhi

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is bringing repatriation flights to an end, after returning 3,227 tourists back to Finland or their home countries in Europe during the coronavirus crisis.

Flights began at the end of March in coordination with other EU countries, and included planes from Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Thailand, Cuba, USA and India.

Anyone living in Finland who want to return home could book and pay for a seat on the specially organised Finnair flights, with the Government agreeing to cover the total cost of the flights if not enough tickets were sold.

“The aim of the flights was to enable a reasonable return journey from destinations from which there was no real possibility to return due to the disruption of commercial flight connections” explains Antti Putkonen, the Head of Unit responsible for arranging the repatriation flights at the ministry.

The total cost to the State of the flights was €354,838 and the ministry has applied for money from the EU to cover some of those costs.

Finnish passengers getting on buses in Northern India / Credit: Finnish Embassy

Thousands of Finns made their way home

When the Government advised Finns who were traveling abroad to come back home, thousands heeded their advice.

But not everyone was able to get to commercial flights or make their own arrangements before airlines canceled services or countries imposed their own flight bans.

“The typical traveler in India is one who is staying a bit longer, and many had been here well before the coronavirus situation peaked globally” diplomat Nelli Mikkola from the Finnish Embassy in Delhi told News Now Finland at the beginning of April.

“Because of the population and local conditions, India had to do a drastic lockdown decision quickly, and travelers didn’t have that much time to react” she explained.

Closer to home thousands of Finns who make the south of Spain their winter home also had to figure out whether to fly or drive back to Finland.

“At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis we had 10,000 people registered in Spain, but of course there were many more” says Sara Tuxen from the Finnish Embassy in Madrid.

Tuxen explained in April that many Finns travel to Spain by car and so could drive back while ferries were still running from Germany – or else take the long land route up through Sweden before borders were closed along the way.

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