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Finnair AIRLINES H


elsinki has plenty going for it. Situated on the Gulf of Finland in the south of the country,


there are museums, parks, markets and attractions galore. The city always ranks highly on “liveable cities” surveys that try to determine the best place in the world to live.


It is also a great anchor point for exploring the region. Helsinki is just 80km north of Tallinn, Estonia; 390km west of Saint Petersburg, Russia; and 400km east of Stockholm, Sweden. Indeed, the geographical position of


Finland’s capital is everything to Finnair, especially in a global context. Flying from Helsinki is the shortest route from Europe to northeast Asia. This gives the airline a unique proposition, providing extra flexibility for business schedules and an easier travel experience. The Europe-Asia connection has been


the backbone of Finnair’s strategy for a number of years and Rikke Christensen, Finnair’s vice-president for traffic planning, admits that will continue to be the case. “Our growth has been very focused, and will stay focused on Asia,” says Christensen. For the summer schedule 2017, for example, there are additional weekly frequencies to Tokyo and Hong Kong. Tokyo operations are performed in conjunction with Finnair’s partner, Japan Airlines. Frequency has gone from 14 to 19 flights flights a week. Such developments have forced


Finnair to change its forecasts recently. The oneworld alliance member now expects to double its Asian traffic from a 2010 baseline by 2018, two years earlier than previously predicted. And by 2030, Finnair’s goal is to carry 20 million passengers annually, double its current volume. The bulk of that business will come from Asian routes. Helsinki Airport figures for the first half (H1) of 2017 back up the airline’s ambition. Finnair has more than 60% of total capacity in Helsinki, so the 12.8% growth in passengers from Asia passing through the gateway compared with H1 2016 is largely due to those additional flights from Japan and Hong Kong. “International passenger


volumes at our airports grew more than 10% between January and


June, with a growth of Rikke Christensen


around 2% in the number of domestic passengers,” reveals Kari Savolainen,


CEO at Finavia, the airport operator. “The developments we are seeing are mainly due to the rising number of Asian and other international passengers travelling through our airport.” As ever, when talk turns to Asian air


traffic China is the market on everybody’s lips. Finnair is no exception but it is better placed than most to turn dreams of aviation service to the country into reality. “We have been good in developing


secondary cities in China,” says Christensen. “We started Chongqing in 2011, then Xian and in 2016 we started Guangzhou. So, we have slowly been developing our network in China. On Beijing and Shanghai routes, we have increased capacity by 12% by changing from the Airbus A330 to the A350.”


New routes investigated Quality and safety remain the airline’s top priorities, meaning those secondary cities are investigated thoroughly to determine the infrastructure level of the city and airport before the decision is made to open a route.


“Besides China, we also serve four destinations in Japan,” adds Christensen. “In our five-year plan, we see potential in developing our existing routes but also in adding new routes in Asia.” However, Finnair is not putting all of its eggs in the Asia basket. The airline’s route development strategy is devised to be balanced. Feeding the Asian routes, for instance, means ensuring the right connections in Europe. Nearby markets are never neglected. Daily frequencies to Berlin, Copenhagen


and St Petersburg were inaugurated in 2017 and there are now year-round flights to Reykjavik. There will also be a substantial improvement in the airline’s narrow-body fleet. Six additional Airbus A321s are arriving this year alone. Aside from the A320 family, Finnair also operates Embraer E190s and ATRs. “This gives us flexibility in optimising the capacity from 68 to 209 seats,” Christensen notes. “It also gives an opportunity to start up smaller markets with ATRs or E190s. Some of the growth will come from increasing existing routes by either upgauging or frequencies. And a part of the growth will come from new routes in Europe.” Further afield, Finnair has announced


services to Havana in Cuba, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. “It is important we find markets with


the opposite demand curve, like our additions to Cuba and the Caribbean in the upcoming winter season,” says Christensen. “We have a very small home market with 5.5 million people living in Finland, so we are dependent


w routesonline.com ROUTES NEWS 2017 ISSUE 5 23


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