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Finnair To Stay Independent And Stick To Asia Strategy, Says CEO

By Dave Simpson

Finnair FIA1S.HE will remain a stand-alone airline and stick to its Asia-focused strategy while adding new routes to the United States, chief executive Topi Manner has said.

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Finland's national carrier has bet heavily on providing connections to Asia from its Helsinki hub so the recovery of Asian traffic from the slump caused by pandemic restrictions is particularly important.

Finnair expects the business environment to return to close to normal in the second half of this year following the pandemic disruptions.

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"We are optimistic about summer," Manner told Reuters in an interview, adding the airline expected countries like Japan and South Korea to lift travel restrictions towards summer in the northern hemisphere.

"We believe Asia will open up eventually. In the meantime, we are partially pivoting to North America," Manner said.

Finnair's new summer destinations will include the US cities of Dallas and Seattlehe added.

He was speaking after the airline announced a €200 million investment in renewing the cabins of its long-haul fleet, including a new premium economy service and redesigned business cabin.

"This is a trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic. People are willing to upgrade the experience," he said.

Manner said the new cabin class was being added to address increasing demand in premium leisure travel, while also introducing a new business class seat called "the air lounge", a nest-like shell that offers more privacy. It does not recline but modifies to allow for horizontal sleeping.

"We as a carrier of course need to differentiate and we have chosen to differentiate with quality," he said.

Finnair operates Airbus A330 and A350 planes on long-haul routes.

Unlike many airlines, Finnair has not yet joined a wave of orders for the latest generation of narrowbody jets like the A320neo, which burn 15% less fuel.

Finnair's fleet of 35 Airbus A320-family jets includes some planes as old as 21 years but others produced as recently as 2018, according to its website.

Asked whether Finnair planned to renew its medium-haul fleet, Manner said it could do so in three or four years but stressed the importance of sustainable aviation fuel as the airline targets net zero emissions by 2045.

Finnair Resumes Flights To Tokyo Despite Detour

The above news was followed by news that Finland's national carrier Finnair FIA1S.HE will resume four weekly flights to Japanese capital Tokyo despite having to avoid Russian airspace, the company said on Wednesday 2 March.

Finnair cancelled most of its Asian flights for a week on Sunday February 27 in anticipation of Russia's decision to close its airspace to European airlines in response to a similar European Union measure against Russia. L1N2V30JK

"Japan is one of our most important markets and we want to continue offering safe and reliable connections between Helsinki and Tokyo," Finnair's chief commercial officer, Ole Orver, said in a statement, adding that Japan is also an important cargo market.

Flights from Europe to Asia over Russia have long been a key route for Finnair.

"We continue to evaluate possible alternative routes for our flights to China and South Korea and will communicate on these as soon as the plans are finalised," Orver said.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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