Finnair will become the first airline in Europe to operate the Airbus A350 XWB and the third operator in the world to take delivery of the modern generation airliner when it welcomes its first aircraft in the coming weeks. The delivery of the jet became much closer after it successfully completed its first flight in Toulouse this week.
The aircraft will now enter the final production phase including further ground checks and flight tests before being officially handed-over to the Nordic carrier. Finnair has acquired a total of 19 A350 XWBs and will operate its fleet on premium long haul routes to Asia, beginning with services between Helsinki and Shanghai.
The airline made its first commitment to the A350 programme in 2006 with an initial order and last year firmed up eight options it had acquired as part of the original order, increasing its commitment to 19 aircraft.
It will configure its aircraft in a 297-seat, three-class arrangement with 46 Business Class seats, 43 Economy Comfort seats and 208 Economy Class seats. Economy Comfort seats are located in the first five rows of Economy Class.
Finnair is tentatively scheduled to receive the first A350 in late September and it will initially be used on its European operations from October 5, 2015 for crew familiarisation. This will see the aircraft substitute for other equipment on more than 20 domestic and international routes from Helsinki.
The type will make its scheduled debut from the end of the same month, initially on the daily Helsinki – Shanghai route from October 25, 2015 but latter also on the Helsinki – Beijing route from November 21, 2015; Helsinki – Bangkok from December 4, 2015; Helsinki – Hong Kong from February 1, 2016 and Helsinki – Singapore from May 5, 2016.
Finnair’s long-haul fleet currently consists of seven A340s and eight A330s and its A350 orders will replace these aircraft and provide fleet growth of one aircraft per year between 2016 and 2020. As part of this strategy it will phase out its A340 aircraft by the end of 2017 and Airbus has agreed to acquire four A340-300 aircraft currently owned by Finnair in 2016 and 2017 as part of its recent A350 option deal.
Based on the current delivery schedule of A350s, Finnair will receive the first four aircraft in the second half of 2015, seven between 2016 and 2017, and the eight converted options between 2018 and 2023.