Finnair adopts flexible approach to widebody expansion

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Finnair will remove its oldest Airbus A340s when its new A350s start to join the fleet next year, but the airline says it retains flexibility on how much it uses the new aircraft to grow its fleet.

The airline is in the process of completing the upgrade of its existing widebody fleet of 15 Airbus A330/340s – though the oldest three of its seven A340s are not being upgraded as these will be replaced with its new A350s.

The A350s will feature a new onboard product. Finnair is to take delivery of the first four of the widebodies in the second half of next year.

“In phasing out the older aircraft, we do have flexibility in our agreements,” Finnair chief executive Pekka Vauramo said during a press event in Helsinki to mark the carrier’s unveiling of its initial A350 plans. “We will look at the market situation when that day comes, so we can take a different view if we need to. But our current plan is to replace the A340s in fairly fast timeframe and then continue to build up the A350 fleet and run parallel the A350s and A330s.

“We will add long-haul destinations and add capacity on short-haul at the same time.”

Crucially, the arrival of the A350s will have major impact on Finnairs costs, cutting fuel bills by around 25% on a significant part of its operations.

Vauramo says the A350 – which will initially be deployed on flights to Shanghai, Bangkok and Beijing – does not open up any particular new markets for Finnair, because its geographic position means it is already well placed to connect points between Europe and Asia.

“Technically we can operate all the destinations we can see ourselves targeting, so it doesn’t expand our range and we continue to concentrate on the same geographical areas and for sure we will add some destinations in those areas,” he says.

The airline has put its focus on acting as a connecting hub for Europe and Asia traffic – the vast majority of its long-haul flights are to Asia – and is keen to develop feeder traffic from beyond Finland. “We have airports that do not have direct flights. That’s where we see a good opportunity,” says Vauramo.