Finnair in talks with Indian airlines for partnership

May 15th, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by admin  

By Nayanima Basu
Helsinki, May 15 (IANS) Nordic airline Finnair is in talks with leading airlines in India for a partnership in order to strengthen its position in the local market there. “We are in partnership talks with the leading airlines of India. We need this in the long run. This would simply make our connections locally better and it would also help in timetable coordination with the connecting flights,” Jukka Hienonen, president and CEO, Finnair, told a visiting IANS correspondent in an interview.

“People would not fly to only where we fly. They would like to fly to other destinations as well, within India. So we would need a local partner to cooperate,” he added refusing to divulge the names.

The Finnish national carrier, which started operations in India in the late 2006, is soon going to fly 13 times a week by operating daily from New Delhi and six times a week from Mumbai from June.

The airline is also a member of the ‘Oneworld Alliance’, the third largest airline alliance in the world having members like British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, LAN, Japan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, MALEV and Mexicana (from 2009).

“I have also been urging the board of Oneworld that we should have an Indian partner as well. That is also in the process at the moment. So ideally, we may partner the same airline,” Hienonen said.

Driven by the growth of its India traffic, the airline is eyeing other destinations besides New Delhi and Mumbai.

“Bangalore and Chennai are on our screen and we are under pressure from customers to add more destinations. Within two-three years’ time, we have to consider what our third destination will be,” Hienonen said.

With the rising cost of aviation fuel that has spelt disaster for the sector, the company is aggressively revamping its fleet by phasing out its Boeing MD-11s by early 2010.

“By the first quarter of 2010, we would be phasing out all our Boeing MD-11s and they would be replaced by Airbus A340s and A330s,” Hienonen said, adding that old planes consume more fuel.

“Airbus 330s are best for shorter routes. We will have five of them by the first half of next year and they will be primarily for the Indian traffic.”

It is also one of the key cargo players in India carrying a payload of 21 tonnes back and forth between India and Finland.

In 2007, the airline carried almost 8.6 million passengers, of which 1.2 million consisted of its Asia traffic.

“It also remains one of our dreams that we would work out a better service timetable with our North Atlantic traffic so that we could fly passengers from India to North American destinations, which currently requires a waiting period of six hours.”

With some 70-odd Finnish companies, like Nokia and industrial cranes major Kone, having major expansion plans in India and employing around 11,000 people and Indian software giants like Infosys, Sasken and Wipro setting up bases in Finland, the airline sees a huge potential.

One of the oldest operating airlines in the world, Finnair is currently celebrating 85 years of operation. The airline registered a turnover of two billion euros last year, employing 9,500 people globally.

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