India demand spurs daily Delhi service by Finnair (Lead)

September 7th, 2010 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arvind Padmanabhan
Helsinki, Sep 7 (IANS) Buoyed by some strong demand from India even during the difficult times for global carriers during the past few years, Nordic airline Finnair is starting a daily service to New Delhi soon with more convenient departure and arrival schedules.

The state-run carrier from the land of Santa Claus, reindeer, saunas and Nokia will also offer one of the fastest connections to most European countries, with a transit time of no more than 45 minutes at the upgraded and expanded Vantaa International Airport here, airline officials said.

“Our passenger load factor has been the highest from Asia, notably India. We are waiting for deliveries of some more new aircraft, and from Jan 6, we will become a daily service between Helsinki and New Delhi,” said Kari Stolbow, director for India subcontinent.

“India remains a very important market for us. Over the past year, we had expanded our capacity 40 percent. Now we will add to our capacity and also offer a more convenient time slots for both outbound and inbound travel,” Stolbow told a visiting IANS correspondent.

“Our strategy to keep fares competitive despite some tough years since 2008 seem to have paid off,” he said, highlighting the fact that the passenger load factor out or India in the first quarter of this year was well above 90 percent.

Load factor refers to number of actual passengers flown for every 100 seats. The carrier does not share the actual passenger numbers and revenue details for specific countries.

Finnair has been offering a return ticket for around Rs.37,000-Rs.40,000 (around $850) to European cities such as Helsinki, Paris, Frankfurt and London. A return air fare to New York and Toronto in North America has been pegged at around Rs.55,000 ($1,200).

The carrier, which has been operating chartered flights to Goa for more than 25 years, started scheduled services to Delhi in October 2006. It expanded operations to Mumbai two years later, but withdrew from there because of delays in aircraft deliveries.

According to the senior Finnair official, flights out of New Delhi will leave at 10.50 in the morning in the next couple of months, against 8.35 a.m. now. On return, it will again reach at a more convenient 6.25 a.m.

“What makes flying Finnair more attractive and convenient is the transit time — just 45 minutes for 90 percent of the European cities. So in a matter of just an hour-and-a-half hours more, maximum, you can reach your destination.”

Stolbow said Finnair’s importance to the Indian market can also be gauged by the fact that it has an all-new fleet of Airbus A-330s and A-340s deployed for this sector. “The average age of our fleet to Delhi is just six months.”

The Finnair official said the carrier was also looking forward to the formal entry of Kingfisher Airlines into the OneWorld alliance of global airlines for better synergies - both for reaching out to Indian destinations and overseas.

Five of the OneWorld carriers serving India will also share Kingfisher’s new premium passenger lounge in the new Terminal 3 of New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Apart from Finnair, the OneWorld members that fly to India are American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Royal Jordanian.

Among the other plans for India, the Nordic carrier also plans a full-fledged freighter service between Helsinki and Mumbai next year encouraged by high cargo volumes from India in recent years.

Finnair officials said the carrier managed to carry 5.4 percent higher volumes of cargo from New Delhi last year, despite a 16 percent cut in capacity. This year, the cargo volumes are up 26 percent.

For the cargo service, the carrier will target merchandise such as garments, footwear, leather accessories and pharmaceuticals to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and some members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

On the return leg, Finnair Cargo already sees high volumes and further potential for telecom and electronic goods and equipment.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at arvind.p@ians.in)

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