Travel Trade Journal

India fundamenta­l to Finnair’s future growth strategy

- Gurjit Singh Ahuja

Finnair has been serving the India market for the last 15 years now. However, the conditions created post the COVID-19 meltdown and the current war in Europe have made a deep impact on Finnair’s Asia focus. This rethink has only worked to the advantage of India. TTJ speaks to Sakari Romu, General Manager - India, Finnair, to know more about the airline’s plans and vision for India.

It has just been three months since Sakari moved into his new role as General Manager - India and the twinkle in his eyes and emphatic appreciati­on of the dynamics of the India market are an instant giveaway to the fact that his tenure in India will be a transforma­tional one.

Sakari elaborates, “Asia was a major focus market for us but the war in Europe and closure of Russian airspace have decimated the geographic­al advantage enjoyed by Finnair’s hub of Helsinki for its Japan, Korea, and China markets, forcing them to rethink their strategy and also their Asia strategy. This has resulted in singling out India from the other Asian markets. Today India single-handedly enjoys Finnair’s focus as a top Asian market.”

Sakari emphasises, “India enjoys the benefit of emerging as the fastest growing market for aviation in Asia and perhaps the world, and hence its importance cannot be undermined under any circumstan­ces.”

He further adds, “Perhaps it has been India’s biggest failing that it has been unable to project and highlight to the world the change and massive strides it has made over the last 10-15 years in developing world-class facilities and infrastruc­ture. Today Indian airports and infrastruc­ture compete with some of the very best in the world.”

With seven flights a week out of Delhi to Helsinki, using state-of-the-art Airbus 350 and 330 aircraft combined with Visit Finland’s ambitious target to triple its overnights from India in the next 3 years from 1,00,000 to 3,00,000, India is the market to be in for Finnair. India’s growth story offers tremendous business opportunit­ies and besides ambitious targets of promoting tourism between India and Finland, a tremendous opportunit­y exists for inbound tourism into India. The world has started discoverin­g India, its tourism potential, and its market potential as a humongous consumer of goods and services, so not only will that warrant an increase in the tourist or leisure traveller but also the business traveller into India.

Sakari shares, “Finnair has currently undertaken an ambitious 200 million Euros, upgradatio­n program under which the seats on board its entire Airbus 330 fleet will be completely revamped starting from economy class, premier economy to business class also the seats onboard its Airbus 350 fleet will fully be replaced in the premier economy and business class. The idea was to innovate and create Finnish products with a Finnish identity that stands out and speaks for itself. It is not an improvemen­t, but the creation of something absolutely unique and new.”

Finnair has been enjoying exceptiona­lly good flight loads and fare yields all through the summer and this fall but a steep escalation in costs of aviation fuel combined with the fallout of the closure of Russian airspace resulting in longer flight routes have played a major role in escalating the price of air tickets for the end user. The airlines have lost a lot of money over the last few years and the immediate focus for all is to return business to profitabil­ity, including Finnair.

“With our new strategy focusing on markets in the USA, Europe, Asia, and India, Finnair strives to return to profitabil­ity within 2024. India offers great potential and we are continuous­ly evaluating and studying options for future growth from other cities in India. Hopefully, may peace prevail soon and normalcy return,” concludes Sakari.

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Sakari Romu

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