Finnair plans new Asian expansion strategy

Finnair have announced that it will fly the Airbus A350 to Asia as part of its plan to expand its Asian traffic, according to Finnair’s latest market release. Finnair have also announced that it intends to “double Asian traffic by 2020 from the 2010 level”. This is no mean feat.

A350 XWB Finnair 02 LR

Finnair A350XWB artist’s impression (Picture courtesy Finnair)

Aggressive expansion plans

A key part of Finnair’s aggressive expansion plans is the introduction of the new Airbus A350XWB. Finnair takes delivery in October 2015, as the first European customer for the aircraft. Qatar Airways were the inaugural customer for this aircraft, which had its first flight between Doha and Frankfurt on January 15th this year.

A press release last year details Finnair’s plans for the A350:

“Finnair plans to begin operating its first A350s in the second half of next year, initially serving Shanghai, Bangkok, and Beijing, with Hong Kong and Singapore A350 service to be added in 2016. Finnair has 11 firm orders and 8 options for A350 aircraft, which will form the backbone of the company’s long-haul fleet and drive expansion plans.”

Clearly this plane is integral to their strategy of expansion within Asia. Fellow oneworld member Cathay Pacific also has the A350 in their sights, with 22 orders for the -900 variant and 26 orders for the -1000 variant. Their planes are not slated to arrive however until February 2016, but may provide competition in the Asian market for Finnair. Destination plans have not yet been announced for Cathay Pacific, but Europe and North America are logical markets.

Shortest route between Asia and Europe?

Helsinki airport is aggressively advertised by Finnair as being geographically the shortest route between Asia and Europe. Looking at a few examples using London Heathrow as a destination, this doesn’t quite tend to add up.

As an example:

Tokyo (NRT) – London Heathrow (LHR) = 5974 mi direct (source: gcmap.com)

Tokyo (NRT) – Helsinki (HEL) – London Heathrow (LHR) = 6028 mi (source: gcmap.com)

Similar results can be found using Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong instead of Tokyo. That being said though, the distance in mileage is generally less than 100 miles when connecting through Helsinki. Given that port has an exceptionally short Minimum Connection Time (MCT) of 40 minutes for connecting between Finnair international flights, Finnair are touting that connecting through their hub may not necessarily add undue travel time to your total journey.

Add to that the fact that Finnair connect to over 60 destinations in Europe and has some aggressively priced business class fares from ports such as Bangkok and Tokyo.

New business class product

Its worth noting that Finnair is rolling out a new 1-2-1 ‘direct aisle access’ business class product on their A350s, with an updated ‘Zodiac Cirrus III’ seat, similar to those used by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. The press release photo mock-ups of the cabin look very clean and spacious, with no overhead bins at the center.

Finnair A350 XWB Business Class Cabin 01 cruise LR

Finnair A350XWB business class cabin (courtesy Finnair)

Finnair’s current A330 fleet has also undergone an upgrade with the installation of ‘Zodiac Vantage’ seating, seen similarly on airlines such as Swiss, Austrian and Delta.

Finnair business A330 01 Low

Finnair A330 new business class (courtesy Finnair)

Finnair are also touting that they offer a ‘unique Nordic experience’. What exactly this entails is a little vague but as long as it’s not more of this then they’re probably going to be fine. Essentially their goal is that “as a result of the service offered at the airport, in lounges and on board, customers arrive at their destinations relaxed and with peace of mind”.

Finnair is also one of the few oneworld airlines to offer lifetime Emerald status, but that path is quite gruelling and not for the faint of heart (or those with a fear of flying).

Given Finnair don’t fly to Australia they are oft-forgotten but with their code share and alliance partner Cathay Pacific flying to all major Australian ports they offer what will look to be a very competitive hard product from Australia to Europe, assuming you don’t mind making two stops along the way. Finnair like to call this the ‘Reindeer Route’ as opposed to our traditional ‘Kangaroo Route’ to Europe via Asia. We’re always excited to see new airlines competing and expanding into markets such as Asia so we look forward to these developments with interest.

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