Foreign Ministry helps travellers stranded abroad during coronavirus pandemic through subsidised repatriation flights
So far, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has organised twelve repatriation flights in cooperation with Finnair. Altogether, 2,486 passengers have been carried home, approximately half of them Finns. This is the first article in a series about the things that have been done by the Foreign Ministry in Finland and in the missions abroad during the coronavirus crisis.
In Europe, flights have been organised from Paphos, Funchal, Faro, Malaga and Alicante. Long-distance repatriation flights have carried people home from Havana, Goa, Delhi, Dubai and Bangkok. For Malaga and Delhi, flights have been organised twice.
“The repatriation flights have proceeded smoothly and, in many travel destinations, the flight that we have offered has been the only feasible option for travellers to return to Finland. I want to specifically underline that our embassies have played a significant role and worked extremely hard to make sure that the necessary local arrangements have been in place. Due to various restrictions on movement, in many places we have had to organise also land transport,” says Antti Putkonen, Director of the Unit for Consular Assistance, who is responsible for the repatriation flights.
On the long-distance repatriation flights, in particular, Finland has been able to offer citizens of the other Nordic and EU countries transport to their home countries. Long-distance repatriation flights have been scheduled taking into consideration suitable onward connections to destinations operated by Finnair, especially to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. In cases where many passengers have needed a connecting flight, the airline capacity and the corresponding cost have been raised. This has helped especially Nordic citizens to move smoothly and quickly to their home countries from Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
In return, hundreds of Finnish travellers stranded abroad have also managed to return to Europe on repatriation flights organised by the EU and the other Nordic countries. Different countries’ missions in the travel destinations have coordinated and collaborated closely throughout the crisis. Staff working at the Ministry in Helsinki have been in contact with their European and Nordic colleagues on a daily basis.
Costs of repatriation flights
The price of repatriation flight tickets has ranged between EUR 230 from Cyprus to EUR 600 from Cuba. Flights with full seat occupancy rate have not incurred costs for the State. For the costs arising from long-distance repatriation flights from Havana and Bangkok, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs together with the Ministry of the Interior requested partial funding from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will publish the total cost of the repatriation flights after the flights are over.
Finnish travellers still stranded abroad
Based on information available to the Foreign Ministry, approximately 1,500 Finnish nationals willing to return home are still stranded abroad. Commercial connections continue to be available from certain destinations. Even though the EU and the Nordic countries have already organised hundreds of repatriation flights and continue to do so, it is possible that some travellers have to stay in their travel destinations until commercial connections start to operate again.
“We continue to assess the need of additional repatriation flights in cooperation with out missions abroad and through consular coordination between the Nordic countries. One repatriation flight has been commissioned to bring people home from Antalya, Turkey, next week. We are very satisfied with the cooperation with Finnair,” Putkonen says.
We help travellers in distress abroad in accordance with the provisions of the Consular Assistance Act and taking into consideration the operational conditions in the region.
Travellers - submit a travel notification
Travellers should submit a travel notification and make sure that it is up to date and to inform the local Finnish mission if they need a place on a repatriation flight. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its missions abroad inform about the options to return to Finland not only on their social media channels but also directly to those who have submitted their travel notification at matkustusilmoitus.fi.