Flight connections mean a lot to the Åland Islands as it’s a long ferry ride from the archipelago province of nearly 30,000 inhabitants to the Finnish mainland.
“Flight connections are important to us, especially when it comes to the vitality of local businesses. Almost all of the passengers are travelling on business. You can hardly see any tourists on the flights, because they mainly visit Åland by ferry,” says Tanja Sabel, Airport Manager at Mariehamn Airport.
There are two daily flights from Mariehamn to Stockholm, Sweden. There are also two triangular flights per day to Turku and Helsinki. Respectively, there are two return flights per day from these cities to Mariehamn.
Connections may even be a matter of life and death
The route offering could be more generous. That would help not only business travellers but also cancer patients, for instance, who frequently travel from Åland to Turku for treatment. Until last spring, there was one more flight to the mainland and back per day, but it was cancelled after NextJet, the Swedish airline, went bankrupt.
“For patients there’s a big difference between flying back at 4 pm or at 8:20 in the evening. Many patients grow tired while waiting for their flight,” Sabel explains.
In mid-June, a new airline began operating between Mariehamn and Stockholm. According to Sabel, the company is considering flights to Turku.
“We’re hoping for a new flight route. Smooth connections carry a significant weight for an island that lies far from the Finnish mainland.”
Asian tourists welcome to Åland
Hailing from Turku, Tanja Sabel moved to Åland fifteen years ago. At first, she worked in foreign tourism to the Åland Islands. Seven years ago, she became the manager of Mariehamn Airport. Based on her experience in the travel industry, Sabel thinks the Åland archipelago would make an excellent destination for Asian tourists.
“During the first week of June, more than one hundred flights from Asia landed at Helsinki Airport. It would be great if some of these Asian guests ended up visiting us in Åland.”
Åland would offer them a unique archipelago experience in a tranquil environment.
“An increase in the number of tourists flying to Åland would enhance our flight route selection. That would be valuable to not only business travellers and patients visiting the mainland but to all Åland residents,” Sabel says.