Finnair accelerates capacity growth, led by long haul; seeks cost efficiency through fleet & labour

In 2016 Finnair accelerated its rate of capacity growth after a modest return to expansion in 2015, following cuts in 2014. It also experienced a fall in unit revenue (as did most European airlines), most notably in the regions of highest capacity growth, i.e. the long haul markets North America and Asia.

Asia is Finnair's most important long haul market (Japan and China are its two biggest markets by ASKs) and its ranking by seats on routes between European and NE/SE Asia is disproportionate. It has ambitious growth plans in the region and will increase frequencies to Tokyo and Hong Kong this summer. Its long haul network, which will also extend to San Francisco this summer and Goa next winter, is largely founded on connecting traffic via its Helsinki hub.

Finnair's return to capacity growth has coincided with a return to profit, but lower fuel prices were the main driver of its bottom line improvement. Its profit margins remain slim and, beyond the vagaries of fuel price benefits, Finnair aims for more sustainable unit cost cuts. Fleet strategy and labour productivity form a two pronged attack on its cost base.

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