Finnair wants Chongqing as Western China’s preferred airport
In a fast-changing aviation industry, airlines need to think in different ways to evolve and grow. In the Europe-to-Asia market, Finnair is a prominent player along with bigger competitors such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa. Its strategy is built around “Asia’s growing market, the best flight connections and cost-competitiveness” and making Helsinki into a transit hub. Geography makes the Finnish capital the shortest EU gateway for Europe-Asia flights. Finnair deploys 50% of its capacity (ASKs) on routes to Asia.
According to the Center for Aviation (CAPA), Finnair has a 10% share of capacity between Japan and Western Europe, putting it ahead of British Airways; a 7% share between South Korea and Western Europe; and a 6% share for China. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport operator Finavia has worked with Finnair to invest in the airport and help Asian passengers in their local languages. As previously reported, the airline will begin a seasonal non-stop service to Hanoi in Vietnam next summer.
In May, Finnair became the first European airline to open a route to the south-western city of Chongqing, which has a population of almost 30 million people. It is its fourth destination in China and eleventh in Asia after Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Finnair’s Head of Chongqing and Western China, Robert Gustavsson, says the city is the “next logical step” in China. GDP in the municipality rose by 17.5% in 2011 and trade between the region and Europe doubled to $6.2 billion. Gustavsson also points to a growing leisure market. Finnair’s Chongqing sales office is implementing marketing initiatives, training local travel agencies in selling its tickets.
“Chinese-language customer service is the most important provision for passengers,” he says. So Finnair runs two call centres in Beijing and Shanghai, has Chinese meals, movies and TV shows in all classes and at least three Chinese-speaking crew on Finland-China flights. Finnair wants Chongqing to be the airport of choice for people in Western China seeking a flight to Europe.
[image courtesy Finnair]