Maunu von Lueders

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Flynordic chief executive Maunu von Lueders has got aviation stamped right through him. His first job, when he joined Finnair some 41 years ago, was at Helsinki airport that would have handled considerably fewer flights in those days. “It was very different then,” he recalls. “There was no hassle.” He muses: “I wish it was like that at today’s airports.”

Flynordic is a fully owned subsidiary of oneworld carrier Finnair, based at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. In November 2003 Finnair acquired 85% of the shares of Flynordic (then called Nordic Airlink), which in May 2004 was increased to 100%.

The Finnish flag carrier had no budget operation of its own and said at the time: “We want to change this by using Nordic Airlink [now Flynordic] and a budget airline strategy in order to offer passengers a low-cost alternative.” In October 2004 Nordic Airlink changed its name to Flynordic. It is now the second largest airline in Sweden, serving 21 destinations with a fleet of nine MD-80s.

Last year Flynordic carried 1.2 million passengers, but as far as financial figures go, parent Finnair does not release separate financial results for the carrier.

Although Finnair acquired the carrier to add a low-cost dimension to the group, the focus has shifted. “Don’t label us a low-cost carrier anymore,” warns von Lueders. “We are not a pure-bred business, low-cost or charter airline. We are doing the same things as SAS, but at half the cost.”
He says that this transformation was driven by customer expectations – the breakdown is 60% business and 40% leisure travellers, which the carrier turns to its advantage when schedule planning.

Von Lueders explains that for optimum aircraft utilisation, morning services operate within Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia primarily for the business passenger, while during the day they are flown to destinations further afield in Europe, returning to pick up business travellers at the end of the day. At weekends the carrier flies charter services In total it operates more than 250 departures a week.

The carrier was the launch carrier for the Amadeus internet-based booking engine, Results CMS, which is aimed specifically at the low-cost carrier. It began using the system in October 2005.

Distribution is via the internet and call centre (which account for 90% of ticket sales) and the Amadeus global distribution system, which is the method of choice for large corporate travel departments. “Customers pay slightly more for tickets if they go via GDS,” says von Lueders, “ but the system is cost-neutral for us. The GDS surcharge we ask for, around €3 a ticket, covers the booking premium only.” He adds that the carrier’s full content is available via the GDS, even the lowest fares.

The Flynordic team clearly have a quirky taste in advertising. They asked Johann Renck, who usually directs videos for pop stars such as Madonna and Robbie Williams, to come up with something different for Flynordic and he certainly has done that. Flynordic’s fast-moving, almost surreal, promotional video is intended to stress the value offered by a low-cost airline in a world full of excess and unnecessary consumption and “has created lots of discussion in Sweden”, says von Lueders. The advert was run on Swedish television during the recent ice hockey world cup tournament and the fact that Sweden emerged as the champions meant sky-high viewing figures for the advert right to the end of the competition.

As for route planning, von Lueders sees France as a country that offers the carrier “great potential. It is attractive for Scandinavians who have second homes there.”

Flynordic currently flies to Bordeaux in the summer and Grenoble in the winter. It also has a codeshare to serve Nice with fellow Scandinavian low-cost carrier Sterling.
Flynordic is continuing its innovative approach to marketing as it aims to extend its reach there, including a web campaign focusing on the wines of France as well as offering golf tours and teaming up with the French tourist board.

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