Finnair aims to capitalise on the additional belly cargo capacity of its new Airbus A350s, of which it will start taking delivery in the second half of next year.

The Oneworld carrier is European launch customer for the type, with 11 on order and a further eight options. The carrier has given no precise date for handover of the first, saying only that it expects to take delivery of the type in the second half of next year.

“This aircraft was ordered a long time ago. We have lived through the design phase and now await its arrival,” said chief executive Pekka Vauramo, speaking as the carrier unveiled its cabin plans for the type while the A350 stopped in Helsinki as part of route-proving tour. The airline will operate its A350 in a 297-seat configuration featuring 46 in business class.

“We are working very closely with Airbus, and we are very comfortable and confident of where we are with this aircraft. We are experienced in taking new aircraft, and we have the processes in place,” he says.

“We get four aircraft next year, four in 2016 and three in 2017,” he says. The aircraft will initially be deployed on existing routes to Shanghai, Bangkok and Beijing.

“This is very important in our strategy. We have a strategy to double our Asian revenues [from 2010 levels] by 2020. We are tracking that very well, but we need this aircraft to fulfil our targets. For us it is one of the main drivers to improve our profitability in the next three years,” he says.

“It gives us more passenger capacity and more belly cargo capacity. Between 15-20% of our revenues comes from belly cargo. This will give us 50% more cargo capacity,” he adds.

While the air cargo market remains sluggish, he sees most of the challenges in the full-freighter part of the industry. “Our cargo is [mostly] belly cargo and very often when you hear comments about cargo it’s about freighters. He says the strong Chinese manufacturing market, trends for more transactions over the internet, and shorter distribution chains “all speak for increased freight volumes and very fast delivery”.

He adds that such is the significance of its cargo revenues, the airline “cannot ignore” these volumes, and it is “always a consideration” in network development.

The airline has positioned itself a transfer hub between Europe and Asia, and while it has not added long-haul capacity this year because it has had aircraft out of the fleet for cabin upgrades, it plans further expansion in Asia.

“To grow Asian revenues we need to add one more long-haul destination every year, then we need to build more feeder traffic. We seem to have outgrown the market [in Finland] so we will need more passengers from Europe and Asia,” he says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard