Finnair, a launch customer for the Airbus A350 XWB, has signed a firm order for eight additional A350-900s.
In 2007, Finnair was the first airline to select the Airbus A350 XWB, when it ordered 11 aircraft and optioned eight more.
Finnair kept its original order alive even when, by 2007, industry pressure from companies such as International Lease Finance Corporation forced Airbus to scrap its original, highly derivative A350 design and come up with an all-new aircraft.
When Airbus announced the new, three-member Airbus A350 XWB family (which included the A350-800, the A350-900 and the A350-1000), the Helsinki-based carrier specified that its 11 aircraft be A350-900s.
Now, on December 3, Finnair has converted its eight original A350 options into a firm order, increasing its firm A350-900 buy to 19 aircraft. At Airbus list prices, the value of the additional eight A350-900s “would be approximately €1.9 billion” ($2.34 billion), according to Finnair, which is unlikely to be paying anywhere near that much.
In autumn 2015, Finnair will become the first European airline to take delivery of Airbus A350 XWB jets. Each of Finnair’s A350-900s will seat 297 passengers, in a two-class cabin configuration. The aircraft will be deployed on Finnair’s long-haul routes to Asia and North America.
Finnair’s current long haul fleet consists of seven Airbus A340-300s and eight A330-300s. The carrier plans for its long-haul fleet to grow, on average, by one new-generation aircraft per year between 2016 and 2020.
Based on its current delivery schedule for the A350-900s, Finnair will receive its first four aircraft in the second half of 2015; seven A350s between 2016 and 2017; and eight A350s between 2018 and 2023.
Finnair plans to phase out its Airbus A340-300 widebodies by the end of 2017, following the delivery and entry into service of its first 11 A350-900s. As a part of the deal, Airbus has agreed to acquire in 2016 and 2017 four A340-300s currently owned by Finnair.
“Our strategy centers on growth, taking advantage of the unique geographical location of our Helsinki hub, which offers the fastest connections between Europe and Asia,” says Pekka Vauramo, Finnair’s CEO.
“The A350 XWB aircraft will be essential in delivering on our strategy, as they enable growth in both passenger and cargo traffic, offer our customers top class travel experience and considerably enhance our cost competitiveness,” adds Vauramo.
“Firming up the order for additional eight Airbus A350 XWB aircraft demonstrates our commitment to growth and to operating a world-class Airbus fleet”, says Vauramo. “Our agreement with Airbus ensures a smooth transition from A340s to A350s, mitigating potential business continuity risks related to fleet renewals.”
Finnair currently operates an all-Airbus fleet of 45 aircraft, including 30 Airbus A320-family single-aisle jets and its current 11-aircraft widebody fleet.
As of the end of November 2014, the Airbus A350 XWB family had secured orders for 775 aircraft from 40 customers worldwide.
Finnair’s December 3 deals form part of its strategic long-haul fleet renewal and financing program.
Within this program, Finnair has already announced sale-and-leaseback agreements for four A330-300s, the transactions closing in the first half of 2014; the sale and leaseback of its first two A350-900s, a deal which is expected to close upon delivery of the aircraft to Finnair in the second half of 2015; and the acquisition by Airbus of Finnair’s four owned A340-300s, in 2016 and 2017.