While browsing through the planes in FlightRadar (once again), I've noticed that sometimes some airliners from the same airline company seem to travel "together" on long distance flights to destinations located relatively close to each other (Like Finnair from Helsinki to Hong Kong and to Singapore or to different Japanese cities). The planes were separated vertically by about 2000ft but otherwise quite close to each other. Is there any advantage to this or a good reason? Or is this a pure coincidence?

FlightRadar24 app, 16.July, about 22:38 UTC

  • $\begingroup$ As you point out in a comment, this is more about why the flights are all dispatched in a small time window. And my suggestion is this is because it's a convenient departure time for customers (or convenient arrival times), and this may improve the employee productivity. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 6:15

3 Answers 3


They do this to allow convenient transfer times for passengers at major hubs (in this specific case, Helsinki). In the hours up to the departures of these long range flights, many short- and medium range feeder flights will arrive at Helsinki, with a lot of passengers who are transferring to the long range flights. It basically enables them to operate an efficient spoke-hub model.

Looking at flight schedules for Helsinki as an example, a lot of transfer passengers from all across Europe will arrive on these flights between 15:00 and 16:00:

Major European arrivals

15:00 Budapest and Berlin

15:05 Barcelona

15:10 Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Manchester

15:15 Brussels, London and Amsterdam

15:20 Stockholm

15:25 Milan

15:30 Madrid

15:35 München

15:40 Oslo and Nice

15:45 Warsaw and Rome

15:50 Hamburg

15:55 Copenhagen

And will then transfer to the various long distance flights that depart between 17:00 and 17:35:

Long distance departures

17:00 AY67 to Guangzhou

17:15 AY73 to Tokyo and AY79 to Nagoya

17:20 AY57 to Shanghai

17:25 AY77 to Osaka

17:30 AY41 to Seoul

17:35 AY89 to Bangkok

Because the long distance departures are bundles so closely, it is possible to create short transfer times from all major European airports to any of the long distance flights.


I do not have inside knowledge of Finnair operations, but I would expect that they have a limited number of staff who speak Japanese, and so logistically running the check in desks for several flights to Japan at the same time allows the airline to schedule checkin staff with appropriate language skills to cover the appropriate flights.

There are also restrictions at both Helsinki and in many Japanese airports that restrict night operations and aircraft on the ground overnight do not earn the airline money. As a result, there is a limited range of flight times that ensure that the aircraft are operating continually.


It is just coincidence that they are close together. The dispatchers plan the most efficient routing and it is no surprise that aircraft would follow the same routing.

  • $\begingroup$ I understand that various planes would often follow the same airways, but what surprised me here was that they were planes from the same (not so big) airline, coming from the same departure airport at similar time, yet even though thousands of miles away from start, still close together. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 23:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So maybe the question is why do the airlines plan the departures to distant, but close close to each other destinations, with a similar departure time. Just looking now over Japan, I see that there are three Finnair planes going to three different Japanese cities, that have all departed in a ten minute timeframe. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ Following the same routing is due to how air traffic controllers work and the use of ground based radio beacons in the navigation process. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 21:37

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