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Finnair reconfirms Airbus A350 order as XWB version and adds six A330/A340s as it phases out MD-11s

Oneworld carrier Finnair has firmed its Airbus A350 XWB order, increasing its commitment to 11 of the type, and is ordering six Airbus A330/A340s as part of an accelerated replacement programme for its Boeing MD-11s.

Finnair had originally ordered nine A350s before Airbus revamped the jet into the XWB version last year. But the flag-carrier has continually reiterated its intention to acquire the type and has become the first airline to convert its order into a firm agreement for the twin-jet.

The deal adds another two A350 XWBs to Finnair’s order, giving it a total of 11. All will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

But as part of the agreement, worth some €2 billion ($2.6 billion), the airline is also to acquire a further seven widebodies: a fourth A340 plus an additional six A330/A340s, the split between which has yet to be finalised.

Finnair, which already has three A340s on order, has the option to take either type but chief executive Jukka Hienonen highlights the lower operating cost of the A330: “We can use it economically, for instance, on our Indian routes or our longer Asian routes which do not have the cargo demand that requires the use of an A340.”

© Fixion HCSGM / Airbus

The carrier says that the order will form part of a compensation agreement with Airbus over the delay in delivery caused by the airframer’s overhaul of the A350 design.

Finnair says that the “changed conditions” of the original order have “been taken into account”, adding: “We’re in a good position because we’d ordered the A350 before.”

Finnair had planned to take delivery of the A350s in 2012, and continue operating its MD-11s until then, but the A350 XWBs will not begin arriving until 2014. The carrier says: “Because of the A350 XWB schedule was delayed we want to get rid of the MD-11s earlier.”

Under the revised fleet replacement Finnair intends to phase out its MD-11s by 2010. If the carrier takes advantage of four long-haul options kept over from 2005, it could have build a fleet of 15 A330/A340s by the end of this decade.

Finnair has not disclosed which engine type it would fit to any A330s.

Finland’s government recently put forward a proposal for Finnair to acquire convertible A330 tanker aircraft which could be leased to the military but the spokesman stresses that the airline’s order for A330/340s is completely unconnected.

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