Indian traffic fuelling Finnair’s Asia growth

May 9th, 2008 - 1:00 pm ICT by admin  

By Nayanima Basu
Helsinki, May 9 (IANS) Indian traffic has been one of the major factors for the Nordic airline Finnair’s Asian expansion contributing more than half of its revenues last year, says the airline’s president and chief executive Jukka Hienonen. “Our Asian demand grew 23.4 percent and cargo 36.1 percent in the first quarter. This has been boosted mainly by an increasing traffic from India,” the airline’s chief said.

“In 2006, we started with just three flights a week. Now it is 12. Starting June we will be flying 13 times a week to India by adding one more flight to Mumbai,” Hienonen told IANS.

Bangalore and Chennai are some of the Indian cities to which Finnair is keen on starting new services and the airline is also tapping the traffic to Europe from India, with Helsinki as the base.

“We have Bangalore, Chennai at the topmost priority list as we expand in India.”

With some 70-odd Finish companies, like Nokia and industrial cranes major Kone, having major expansion plans in India 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.

Ahead of the interaction with Hienonen, Finnair’s director for Indian subcontinent Taina Tornstrom said the airline offers the shortest possible links between Europe and India.

With improved connectivity, its services between India and the US, too, has been upgraded in terms of time and convenience, she said, adding that this has led to an impressive jump in the number of Indians travelling on Finnair.

“We now offer the second-fastest connection between Mumbai and New York, with a travel time of around 17 hours,” Tornstrom said. The Air India flights between the two destinations, the shortest currently, take around 15:30 hours.

Finnair also sees a substantial increase in the tourism traffic from India. “The visas issued by our embassy in India is growing - from 40,000 in 2006 to around 60,000 in 2007. People are finding Finland interesting,” she said.

“We have Santa Claus. We have lakes. We have saunas. We have reindeer. The interest is growing,” she said, adding that likewise, India, too, has been attracting Finnish tourists for over two decades.

Even though the Finnish national carrier started its scheduled services to India in 2006, it has been operating to India for more than two decades with chartered operations to Goa, Tornstrom said.

“We operate more than 20 charters to Goa now during the winter season. Many are repeat travellers.”

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