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- Finnair Plc
Tietotie 11 A (Helsinki Vantaa Airport)
- Main hub
- Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
- Business model
- Full Service Carrier
- Domestic | International
- Airline Group
- Part of Finnair Group
- Joined Alliance
- Association Membership
- Codeshare Partners
CSA Czech Airlines
The national carrier of Finland, Finnair is based in Helsinki and is majority-owned by the Finnish government. The airline and its subsidiaries dominate the domestic and international air travel market in Finland. Finnair’s network includes regional services within Finland and Scandinavia as well as flights to Europe, Asia, United States and Canada. Finnair is a member of the oneworld alliance.
Location of Finnair main hub (Helsinki-Vantaa Airport)
Finnair share price
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The last of Europe's stock market-listed airlines recently reported financial results for 2014, providing the opportunity to compare levels of profitability. Ranking them by operating margin, there is a wide range of performance from healthy double digit to negative figures.
LCCs typically performed better than legacy airlines. Most of the higher margin airlines improved in 2014, while most of those at the lower end of the scale suffered a fall in margins. Convergence of business models does not show itself in convergence of financial performance.
Beyond the listed airlines, Europe has a large number of mainly small and unprofitable airlines, which drag down the aggregate margin of the continent's airline sector. Europe's traffic growth and load factors are relatively healthy by world standards, but its margins are held back by its fragmented market structure.
It has been more than three months since Qatar Airways took delivery on 22-Dec-2014 of the world's first A350 XWB. Since then Qatar has taken delivery of only a second aircraft and has used it to increase Doha-Frankfurt service from one to two daily flights, perhaps for operational or commercial reasons although far catchier was Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker's explanation the double daily A350 would "rub salt in the wound" of Lufthansa.
A far greater commitment is in Singapore, where Qatar Airways will have three daily A350 flights to Singapore, a longer flight than Frankfurt. Singapore may be the first airport to see two A350 operators when Finnair commences A350 service there after other Asian points.
Vietnam Airlines will launch A350 service to Paris CDG while Cathay Pacific may make Auckland an early A350 destination. A350 configurations range from 280 to 305 seats. No airline has first class (yet) and business class seat counts range from 29 to 46, with business class comprising 10-15% of total seats.
Finnair is raising the competitive stakes in using its Helsinki hub to offer the quickest connections between Europe and Asia and in 2015 will have about 10 flights a day to North and Southeast Asia. Before Finnair arrived in Asia in 1976, there was SAS, which commenced Asian flights in 1949 and held the title for all sorts of records and unique operations. But Finnair started to catch up, and it – not SAS – was the first to fly non-stop from Europe to China. A decade ago, Finnair had only a slight edge over SAS in Asia but now Finnair has three times the number of flights and four times as many seats as SAS in Asia.
Strong and active unions and an unwieldy ownership structure, together with an inefficient fleet, have hobbled SAS, but it is hoping to make some inroads in Asia, although opportunities will be limited. A new Stockholm-Hong Kong service opens in Sep-2015 while a nascent partnership with Etihad lays the groundwork for closer cooperation in the future and when Etihad commences services to Scandinavia. Emirates and Qatar already serve the region. SAS' Asian network is largely out of Copenhagen, and the airline probably would hope the Stockholm departure for Hong Kong will limit Finnair's poaching of Swedish traffic.
The economic backdrop in Western Europe was sluggish in 2014 and remains fragile into 2015. In particular, the eurozone nations continue to struggle to recover fully from the global recession. A Jan-2015 poll of economists conducted by the Financial Times suggests that most experts expect GDP growth in the eurozone to be around only 1% in 2015.
This is a little better than 2014, but well short of the cyclical peak growth rates in excess of 3% that have not been seen since 2007.
For 2015, the two most important strategic issues facing Western Europe’s legacy airlines, particularly the Big Three flag carrier groups, will be restructuring in their core businesses and maximising their low-cost vehicles.
Finnair's net loss for 2014 was its first since 2011, but its fifth in the seven years since 2008. Over the past decade or so, losses have been more common than profits. Its niche in connecting Europe with Asia via Helsinki has placed Finnair among Europe's top twenty airline groups, although Finland ranks outside the top twenty countries by population.
But converting this niche into sustainable profitability is proving a major challenge. Whenever Finnair makes progress with cost reduction (and it has made major strides with labour productivity), it seems that revenue pressures wipe out those benefits. In 2015, Finnair anticipates a further drop in unit revenue, reflecting the highly competitive nature of its markets.
This year will also present opportunities for Finnair to build a more solid base. It will be the first full year under new labour agreements and with a number of product improvements in place. It will also see its first A350 delivery. Lower fuel prices are a stroke of luck, but Finnair needs to ensure it can be profitable without relying on this good fortune.
Air Canada during the last couple of years has worked diligently to repair its balance sheet, improve its leverage and reduce costs; as a result it is now beginning to enjoy some of the fruits of its labour by meeting its return targets and sustaining liquidity well above its minimum threshold.
The Canadian flag carrier has also undertaken a network revamp that includes the creation of its low cost subsidiary rouge and a push into long-haul international markets, leveraging its position as Canada’s leading global airline.
But Air Canada faces challenges as it works to sustain profitability from its familiar foe WestJet, as well as potential new entrants eager to execute the ULCC model within Canada. The airline will no doubt have focussed on these threats, and be aware there is still much to prove as its efforts to transform its business continue.
This CAPA analysis of Air Canada's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats continues a series on global airlines.