The Helsinki-based carrier becomes the first European airline to welcome the A350, and will use the new aircraft to connect passengers to destinations across Asia. Finnair will initially operate its A350s to Shanghai, before progressively deploying the new jets on routes to Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.
And the airline has also announced plans to expand its Asian network, with the launch of brand new routes to Fukuoka and Guangzhou. Both of these services will commence in 2016, using the Airbus A330 aircraft that will be made available following the deployment of the A350s on Finnair’s other Asian routes.
“This moment heralds a new and exciting chapter in Finnair’s 92-year history. The A350 is the future of flying and will give our passengers a completely new and enhanced travel experience,” said Finnair’s CEO, Pekka Vauramo.
Referring to the two new routes, Vauramo added; “We intend to double our Asian traffic by 2020 from the 2010 baseline, and these new destinations are an important step towards this target. We have a long tradition of connecting Asia and Europe with smooth fast connections via our Helsinki hub, and I look forward to expanding our network to these two exciting markets.”
Finnair has ordered a total of 19 A350s, which it says will form the “backbone” of its Asian expansion strategy. The first four new aircraft are expected to be delivered this year, with another seven arriving in 2016 and 2017. The complete order will be fulfilled by 2023.
Finnair’s A350s will be able to accommodate 297 passengers, with 46 flat-bed seats in business class and 251 seats in economy, including 43 ‘Economy Comfort’ seats with extra legroom. All seats will come equipped with power outlets, USB ports and in-flight entertainment, and the new A350s will also offer in-flight Wi-Fi.
The A350’s first scheduled commercial flight, from Helsinki to Amsterdam and Oslo, will depart on 9 October. The aircraft will then enter long-haul service on 21 November on the Helsinki-Shanghai route.