Finnair Cargo, the cargo arm of Helsinki-based Finnair, will end its long-haul freighter operations effective late December and from that time on rely exclusively on the belly capacity of its rapidly-expanding long-haul passenger fleet.
In 2011 the Finnair Group took a 40% stake in startup carrier Nordic Global Airlines, and moved Finnair Cargo’s two MD-11Fs to the Nordic Global fleet, where they were soon joined by two more of the same type (ex-EVA). Since then, Nordic Global has operated the freighters mostly for Finnair, serving Hong Kong, New York, and Hanoi from Helsinki, and various destinations in Africa from Liège.
Finnair Cargo VP Global Sales Mikko Turtiainen said the decision to abandon long-haul freighter operations was extremely difficult, because “we have over the years received excellent support from the Hong Kong and European freight forwarders and markets, as well as received positive feedback on the freighter operations.” However, he said that after careful analysis “Finnair Cargo does not see long-haul freighter operations with an MD-11 as a sustainable solution in today’s market situation laden with elements such as overcapacity, deteriorating yields and fluctuating currencies.”
He went on to add: “At the same time, however, Finnair Cargo’s growth strategy will start to kick in with the first batch of A350 aircraft added to the Finnair network during the final quarter of 2015. Finnair is the first European airline to receive the A350s, and the acquisition of the new long-haul aircraft will enable us to double our long-haul capacity from our Helsinki hub. By 2020, Finnair Cargo will offer belly capacity on over 140 weekly long-haul flights from Helsinki.”
He also noted that, for the present at least, Finnair cargo would continue to offer two weekly A300-600 freighter frequencies between Brussels and its main hub in Helsinki. Cargo Facts believes that service is currently operated by DHL.
Finnair reported October cargo volume down 3.2% y-o-y to 12,982.6 tonnes, of which 2,503.9 tonnes (9.6% of the total) moved on freighters. Interestingly, while the carrier’s belly cargo volume in October was almost flat with last year (down just o.4%), main-deck volume dropped 13.3%. For the year through October, Finnair’s total cargo volume was up 2.7% to 125,392.6 tonnes. Belly cargo for the period was up 1.1% to 96,592.1 tonnes, while main-deck cargo volume was up 8.4% to 28,800.5 tonnes.
In addition to thirty Airbus narrowbodies used for regional traffic, Finnair’s current fleet includes eight A330-300s and seven A340-300s. The carrier has nineteen A350-900s on order from Airbus, with delivery beginning 2015. Finnair will phase out all of its A340s by the end of 2017 (Airbus will take back four of them).