Carrier does not want initial delivery slots, to avoid 'product development versions'
The Finnish flag carrier has been one of the most committed customers for the twinjet, supporting it both before and after last year's redesign, and last month became the first customer to reconfirm an order for the type. Under the revamped deal, the carrier has orders for 11 A350-900 XWBs - which it says are reconfirmable as either the smaller -800 or larger -1000 version.
The -900 is the lead A350 XWB variant with first customer deliveries set for mid-2013, but Finnair says it will not introduce its first aircraft until 2014 to avoid acquiring the first off the line. "When the new-technology A350 comes on to the market we will take 11 of them, but only from serial number 30 upwards, to avoid possible product development versions of the aircraft ending up in Finnair's colours," says Finnair chief executive Jukka Hienonen.
This will free early A350 production slots for other customers. The original A350 launch operator was Qatar Airways, and although the airline remains in discussions with Airbus about reconfirming its deal as an 80-aircraft XWB order, it has yet to do so.
Hienonen says Finnair's €2 billion ($2.6 billion) order for the A350s enables the airline to amend the delivery schedule, and switch between owning and leasing different versions of the twinjet.
But he is keen to explore ways to bring the aircraft on to Finnair's own balance sheet, stating: "Operating solely with a [leased] fleet reduces an airline's room for manoeuvre and raises costs."
The airline is now considering its financing options for the €2 billion ($2.6 billion) order.
Finnair's A350 XWB order is for the -900 - but not the first off the line