AviationSource got an invitation to a lunch with Finnair in Manchester today. Things are on the up for the airline, but here are the biggest things that came from the event.
Many topics were discussed with Anssi Partanen, Finnair’s Market Director for the UK and Ireland, including the airline’s recent announcement of operations being expanded out of the UK & Ireland, sustainability and more!
Without further ado, let’s get into it…
Discussing Finnair at 100…
The first topic of conversation was around Finnair’s recent milestone of 100 years in business.
Partanen noted the technicality that the company was founded on November 1, 1923, but commercial flights didn’t operate until Spring 1924.
In 1924, the carrier handled 270 passengers in total. Yes, just 270, using Junkers aircraft, with the first two commercial routes being to Tallinn and Stockholm.
100 years later, Finnair handles more passengers handled in the whole of 1924 in one day on its Manchester-Helsinki route.
Manchester Has Milestones Enroute…
As well as the 100 years milestone, Manchester Airport with Finnair has a few milestones coming up.
The first is in March 2024, where the airline will mark 30 years of non-stop services to the airport from it’s base in Helsinki.
Technically the service has been in place since 1977, but included a stop into London before continuing on to Helsinki that way.
Partanen mentions that the airline gets the best of both worlds on this particular service.
“For Finns, the UK is a popular tourist destination, regardless where it is in the country”. This is clear through the four daily services to London Heathrow that the carrier has.
“Corporate travel to Helsinki from Manchester is also a big part of the market and popularity”.
There was also the news released this week that Finnair will be serving Manchester on a double-daily basis from Winter 2024/25, highlighting the recovery in demand that the airline has undertaken on this service.
Within that announcement, Edinburgh is going up to seven weekly, Dublin will have increased frequencies, and the airline will also be serving Nagoya from next year, which represents a service resumption as opposed to a new route.
On Edinburgh, Partanen mentions: “Edinburgh is a successful market for Finns and for Scots”.
Acknowledges Difficult Few Years, But Success Has Arrived…
Within the conversation with Partanen, there was frank and open discussion about the airline’s performance over the last few years which have been hampered by the Ukraine War and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got kicked twice in the kneecaps – once with COVID & once with Ukraine”, he said.
That being said, Finnair, looking away from Manchester, stated that the solution to this was adjusting their network strategy, placing a focus on flights to the U.S, and to Doha, of which this is part of the partnership deal conducted with Qatar Airways.
On top of this, the carrier also made a 200 million EUR investment into the enhanced product offering during COVID, which has resulted in stunning designs to it’s long-haul offering.
Also, the carrier joins the Avios loyalty program from January 2024, meaning they will have an additional cluster of customer bases to work from and encourage travel around the world via Helsinki.
Aircraft Order Inevitable, But on Hold…
During the lunch in Manchester, there was conversation about Finnair and it’s goals towards sustainability and becoming net-zero by 2045.
Part of that approach, of course, is to have aircraft that are fuel-efficient and have lesser of an impact on the environment.
Finnair recently announced plans to overhaul the cabins on it’s Embraer E190 aircraft, which will begin in intensity from next year.
Asked about whether they would be interested on acquiring the E190-E2 as well as other aircraft to cater to their networks, Partanen said:
“An aircraft order is on hold currently, but it is inevitable. Our Embraer E190s will remain for the foreseeable future”.
“The problem we have is about delivery slots [from manufacturers]. Order backlog is an issue currently, as well as the very public supply chain issues in the industry”.
That being said, they clearly don’t need the aircraft as of yet. Over the Winter season, they will be wet leasing four Airbus A320s to British Airways to cope with additional flights over that period.
Overall: A Successful Message Made in Manchester by Finnair…
What remains clear is that today’s lunch in Manchester with Finnair was interesting and insightful. The humbleness of the carrier is definitely emitted from Partanen, with the airline coming very far in 100 years.
Despite tackling recent external pressures, the carrier remains on the up and with additional frequencies on multiple routes across Europe happening next year, all eyes will be on their performance moving forward.
Partanen was able to add a lot of context to the Finnair story, and highlight where they are successful. For example, he mentioned that the Helsinki-Tallinn flight, a 15 minute route, is so popular that the airline offers one service every hour. “Finns love Tallinn”, he said.
“Rovaniemi isn’t just popular in the Winter for Lapland. It’s also popular in the Summer for the Midnight Sun!”.
It is things like this that despite Partanen being in the UK & Ireland role since last year, his 24 years of experience at Finnair shows, and like with the rest of the team at the airline, they are determined to go far and above the pre-pandemic figure that this industry always compares against.
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