Nordic carrier Finnair has outlined a further expansion of its Asian route network after welcoming the first of 19 Airbus A350XWBs into its fleet, becoming the first European and only the third global operator of the modern generation airliner which will enter passenger service from October 9, 2015 on its short-haul European network for crew familiarisation.
The airline has confirmed it will add two further long-haul destinations to its network from spring 2016 with a three times weekly offering to Fukuoka in Japan and a four times weekly link to Guangzhou in China from its Helsinki Airport hub.
"We intend to double our Asian traffic by 2020 from the 2010 baseline, and these new destinations are an important step towards this target," said Pekka Vauramo, Finnair President and Chief Executive Officer. "We have a long tradition of connecting Asia and Europe with smooth fast connections via our Helsinki hub, and I look forward to expanding our network to these two exciting markets."
The new link to Fukuoka, which will operate from May 7, 2016, will see Finnair become the only European airline to operate to four different cities in Japan, complementing its existing daily connections to Tokyo Narita, Nagoya and Osaka.
Fukuoka is one of the largest cities in Japan. Besides being a multicultural metropolis and an important trade city, Fukuoka offers warm weather, rich history, architecture, art, shopping and cuisine, attracting visitors from all over Europe. It is currently only served directly from Europe by KLM which introduced flights from Amsterdam in April 2013.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows an estimated annual market of around 210,000 bi-directional O&D passengers between Europe and Fukuoka. Finnair is serving the market as part of the joint business with, British Airways and Japan Airlines, which enables offering more connections and flexibility for the airlines' customers in traffic between Japan and Europe.
The new link to Guangzhou in China will start from May 6, 2016 and operate through to the end of the summer season on October 29, 2016. The major trade and transportation centre, and the main manufacturing hub in one of mainland China's leading commercial and manufacturing regions is China’s third largest city and will be Finnair’s sixth destination in Greater China – it already has year-round services to Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a summer service to Xi'an.
The two new routes will both be served using an Airbus A330-300, but the growth has been made possible by the arrival of the airline’s new A350 equipment. These aircraft are providing growth opportunities while also replacing less-efficient A340s to enhance the airline’s profitability.
The first A350 was officially delivered to Finnair on October 7, 2015 and will be joined by three additional examples by the year-end and a fifth in early 2016. 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 is configuring 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 has initially scheduled the A350 to operate on its European netwoork for crew familiarisation and 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 next month, initially on the daily Helsinki – Shanghai route from November 21, 2015 but latter also on the Helsinki – Beijing route from December 4, 2015; Helsinki – Bangkok from December 4, 2015; Helsinki – Hong Kong from February 1, 2016 and Helsinki – Singapore from May 5, 2016.
"This moment heralds a new and exciting chapter in Finnair's 92 year history. The A350 is the future of flying and will give our passengers a completely new and enhanced travel experience," said Vauramo. “From route planning to pilots and cabin crew, from technical services to marketing, this is the moment we have worked for. With the A350, we get the fleet that our strategy requires, and we can start building our growth."
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.