According to a PTI report, Finnish carrier, Finnair has expressed, that Indo-Finn air services agreement is hampering connectivity between the two countries and its plans to operate flights to more cities in India. “At the moment, it is impossible to connect Finland with more than two India cities. The bilateral agreement between both the countries forbids it,” stated Kari Stolbow, Director, Indian Subcontinent, Finnair. Currently, the airline connects Finland’s capital Helsinki with New Delhi and Mumbai. The airline plans to operate six-hour flight between Helsinki and Indian cities while gearing up to connect North America with Indian cities through Finland.
“We want to offer our services to Southern cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, where big MNCs like Nokia are located*,” said Stolbow. He further added that Finnair, which has an alliance with Kingfisher Airlines, is talking to more Indian carriers for cooperation. “We have a ‘through fares’ alliance with Kingfisher Airlines and are talking to many others, including Jet Airways,” Stolbow informed.
*Finnish telecom major Nokia has its India manufacturing facilities at Sriperimbudur in the outskirts of Chennai.
Admitting that Finnair’s connectivity with India will be affected by its own shortage of aircraft, Stolbow said the airline will be operating two flights less this winter to Mumbai and a flight less to New Delhi. Currently, the airline connects Finland with Mumbai six times a week and it has seven flights to New Delhi in a week. The carrier is in process of upgrading its fleet, which might get completed by 2017. It expects deliveries of five Airbus 330-340 out of the 15 ordered by next March, while deliveries of Airbus 350s will start from 2014. The total cost of upgrading aircraft is estimated to be around 700 million Euro.
Asked if last month’s terror strike in Mumbai, impacted its operations, Stolbow said, “I have noticed more operators selling packages to Delhi than Mumbai. Though our Mumbai-Helsinki operations did not witness any decline.” He, however, admitted that there has been cancellation of tickets and cited “technical reasons” for it. According to Stolbow, while the aviation industry witnessed a slowdown in passenger growth due to the global economic slowdown, the airline has witnessed a growth in its two-year old Indian operations.