Finnair has expressed interest in expanding its Indian network by adding new destinations as well as increasing flight frequencies to Mumbai and Delhi.
Finnair interested in India
With international travel having opened, international traffic has seen a significant jump in the last few months. And to grab this opportunity, Finnair is looking to expand its Indian network.
According to Sakari Romu, General Manager of Finnair, there has been a surge in demand for travel from India to Europe. In an interview, he said:
We were used to calling Asia for a collective description of the region but now we are viewing India independently because of the growing demand. We are already flying much more than precovid levels.
The national airline of Finland currently operates flights to Mumbai and Delhi. While the airline has been serving Delhi since a long time, Mumbai was added in August 2022 as the carrier’s second destination in India. Delhi is being served daily by Finnair while Mumbai is being served 3-times-a-week.
Romu said that Finnair is looking to add Chennai and Bengaluru to its network. He said:
India is a dynamic market and it will be in the top three aviation markets in the coming years. Certainly this raises the possibility of raising flight frequency and adding destinations. Our fleet is not as big as it used to be because of huge drop in traffic to Asia. But new destinations like Chennai and Bengaluru are very interesting. India is, at the moment, the most promising and prominent market.
According to Romu, there has been a constant demand for countries like the United Kingdom and Switzerland. He added:
A majority of our customers are Indians. I believe it should be 85%. Traditional big destinations like the UK and Switzerland are always in demand. We are looking very positively for travellers interest in Finland and Scandinavia.
Romu said that there have been 107,000 overnights by Indian travellers and the airline wants to triple it. He added:
We had 107,000 overnights by Indian customers. Our target is to triple that number because Scandinavia is still largely under explored by Indian travellers.
Finnair recently unveiled a new revolutionary business class seats and new premium economy seats which are present on some of irs Airbus A350 and A330 aircraft. Romu said that the airline will soon deploy aircraft with these new seats on flights to Delhi and Mumbai. Both Delhi and Mumbai routes are operated by A330-300 aircraft.
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Why is Finnair focusing on India?
As Chinese and Japanese markets are still more or less closed, Finnair has been forced to act differently. This is because Finnair had a major focus on those markets prior to the pandemic. In addition to that, Russia’s airspace is also closed, making it unfavourable to fly to China and Japan. This means that there are far fewer routes to the Far East. And it also means that the few routes it has to the Far East are now much longer and more costly to operate which is not good for a airline’s balance sheet. The largest market then remains is India.
Why Bengaluru and Chennai?
As aforementioned, Finnair already serves Mumbai and Delhi. Bengaluru and Chennai are a natural choice for any international airline as they are the biggest markets in India after Delhi and Mumbai. Although Chennai has lagged a bit in getting new international airlines as compared to Bengaluru, it stills sees consistent international traffic and that’s what airlines are looking for.
The point in which Bengaluru has an advantage over Chennai is connections. Domestic airlines in India serve more destinations from Bengaluru than Chennai. And an airline like Finnair May consider this when choosing between both the South Indian cities. Why? Because if and when Finnair wants to have a codeshare partnership with an Indian airline, it will have an opportunity to serve more domestic destinations in India through its Indian codeshare partner airline.
Finnair has also expressed interest in increasing frequency of flights to Delhi and Mumbai. The airline is already serving Delhi with daily flights. So I don’t think we will see an increase in that service. Mumbai is currently served 3-times-a-week by Finnair. The airline can look to increase this service to probably 5-times-a-week or even to a daily service.
Now what’s interesting is that Japan has announced that it is reopening to international travellers on 11th October 2022 with entry restrictions relaxed. This should be a boon for Finnair, although it still has the Russian airspace problem. The question that remains to be answered is that will Finnair go ahead with its “Indian expansion plan” or will it look to go back to its pre-pandemic schedule to Japan. I guess it’s only a matter of time before Finnair answers this question.
Meanwhile, Finnair recently announced new flights to Doha, Qatar from Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen in partnership with Qatar Airways.
Featured image by Airplane Pictures
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