The new owners’ decision for Finncomm Airlines to keep operating its existing and ordered ATR 72s and ATR 42s appears to preclude – at least in the short-to-medium term – the chances of FCA becoming a sizable operator of the Bombardier Q400. Flybe itself operates the world’s largest fleet of Q400s, with 57 in service and three more on order. Flybe is also an operator of Embraer E-Jets, with 14 Embraer 195s in service and 35 Embraer 175s on firm order, along with options and purchase rights on up to another 105.
Finnair has partnered with FCA for over 10 years to provide point-to-point and feed-traffic services in various Finnish and Baltic markets. FCA is Finland’s largest domestic airline by operations, currently flying approximately 900,000 passengers annually. It currently has 15 regional aircraft and an annual turnover of approximately €90 million. The company employs approximately 400 people.
FCA will continue to operate its current routes under Flybe brand but the intention of Finnair and Flybe is to develop the joint venture to become the leading regional airline for all the Nordic and Baltic countries. Under Flybe’s management, FCA will expand into Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia.
Finnair and Flybe say the new airline will differ substantially to the regional airlines previously operating in those marketplaces. First, it plans to introduce Flybe’s successful, quality low-fare concept and product to the Finnish, Nordic and Baltic regions, allowing millions of business and leisure passengers the opportunity to travel at affordable prices.
In addition, the new owners say FCA will benefit from Finnair’s excellent connections to Europe and Asia as well as its local expertise. In short, say Flybe and Finnair, they want to create more “Flying Finns” by offering an affordable aviation product that understands the needs of the Finnish nation. Flybe’s customer service-oriented product includes an Economy Plus option for the business traveller. Flybe also initiated the world’s first eco-labeling scheme for the aviation industry.
Second, say Flybe and Finnair, FCA will offer a point-to-point network between regional airports, enabling customers to save time. This point-to-point network will open up new destinations and it will complement Finnair’s international network operations.
The new airline is designed to support and stimulate regional Nordic economies in the way that Flybe has already done in the United Kingdom and Europe. By introducing new regional routes, new flights and new timetables, the airline aims to invigorate previously unstimulated markets that until now have not been served by other carriers.
Finnair and Flybe plan to announce details in mid-August of an extensive new route network that will operate from the start of the IATA winter season, on Sunday October 30. The new network will supplement the lifeline routes from the Finnish regions currently operated by FCA.
Flybe says it chose FCA as an acquisition target because its economics make the Finnish carrier a viable base from which to expand into the Nordic and Baltic States region. Maintaining this competitive advantage will be a key facet of the future strategy, says Flybe.
“Finnish and Nordic passengers will see something very different from what has been available to them in the past,” says Jim French, Flybe’s chairman and chief executive. “Flybe and Finnair have come together in a genuine partnership of equals that will bring huge benefits not just for Finnish passengers but also for the country’s economy.”
“We have joined the forces with Flybe to establish a strong, complementary and cost-efficient operator in the Nordic market,” remarks Vehviläinen. “In addition to point-to-point connections, the airline will form an effective feeder platform for our international operations. We also felt that, thanks to Flybe’s long experience in regional point-to-point flying, the company was the best possible partner for a network operator like Finnair. Together we will be able to take the customer experience on a new level.”
Concludes Vehviläinen: “We are establishing a strong player in the Northern European local aviation market. The vision of the new company is in line with Finnair’s partnership strategy and it is an example of how we are building powerful networks with other leading industry parties, such as Flybe. We expect that our partnership will create a competitive and sustainable player in the Nordic markets. This will benefit also those travellers who use Helsinki as their transfer hub on their way to and from Asia and Europe.”