Air France-KLM's latest strategic project, 'Trust Together', follows its Transform 2015 and Perform 2020 programmes. In fact, it complements Perform 2020, rather than replacing it, at least until fuller details are announced in 2Q2017. After years of financial under-performance and market share erosion by Gulf airlines on long haul and LCCs on short/medium haul, CEO Jean Marc Janaillac aims to regain the offensive with this project.
But, in the absence of a substantial change of heart by the group's unions, there is little to suggest any "new" initiative will have a greater impact than its predecessors. The mere fact that Mr Janaiiac is forced to deny that the new long haul airline, codenamed "Boost", will be positioned as "low cost" is a clear enough indication of the task ahead. Indeed, to consider establishing anything else would be irrelevant in today's world.
Presumably so as not to rock the union boat plans are for only an ineffectual 10 aircraft by 2020. Just as with its short/medium haul LCC, Transavia, the scale and scope of the new long haul airline are likely to be subject to negotiation with Air France pilots. Transavia itself will now focus on routes from France and the Netherlands, implying an end to the troubled plans for Transavia Europe.
Both Finnair and TAP are based in peripheral corners of Europe: Finnair in the extreme northeast and TAP in the southwest. Both are based in countries with relatively small populations, but they have developed networks that capitalise on their geographic location to carry connecting traffic from across Europe and elsewhere to long haul destinations in other continents.
TAP's main long haul market is Upper South America (primarily Brazil), but it also has a secondary long haul niche in Africa. Finnair's main long haul market is Northeast Asia, with an additional presence in South and Southeast Asia. Both also operate to the US. On short haul, LCC competition has been a bigger threat to TAP than to Finnair, but cost savings are important to both.
TAP and Finnair have similar traffic volumes, unit costs and average trip lengths. Moreover, both have struggled to generate sustainable profitability. This report compares and contrasts Europe's two leading independent exponents of the location based long haul niche strategy. Both are set to accelerate their long haul growth.