As one of the safest and longest-operating airlines in the world, Finnair is securing its foothold in Korea and beyond
For many of us, a long overseas flight is the stuff of nightmares. Cramped seating, lost baggage and flight delays can wear down even the most seasoned traveler (And seriously, what’s the deal with airplane food?). Add to that the barrage of negative press surrounding airline customer service, and you have major carriers scrambling to do damage control in
response to falling profits. But things couldn’t be more different for Finnair—an airline dedicated to going above and beyond to wow passengers.
Founded in 1923, Finnair is one of the world’s oldest operating airlines. Based in Vantaa, Finland, it specializes in flying between Europe and Asia along the shorter northern route while providing customers with a unique Nordic experience. In a time where many airlines are skimping on crew, Finnair started the biggest recruitment in its history in 2015 and plans to recruit 350 new flight attendants and stewards by 2018. As a result of its dedication to improving customer satisfaction and safety, Finnair was named ‘Northern Europe’s Best Airline’ at the World Airline Awards at the Paris Air Show for eight consecutive years. The results are based on an independent survey of more than 19 million passengers from 105 countries. Additionally in January, the OAG Punctuality League publication ranked Finnair’s arrival punctuality in 2016 (84.12 percent) as the 16 th highest in the world.
For Finnair, the journey to the destination is just as important as the arrival. With the addition of the A350 aircraft in 2015, Finnair’s planes combine the latest technology with advanced passenger comfort features. The carrier’s state-of-the-art Nordic Sky entertainment system and Wi-Fi keeps passengers better connected and more entertained during their journey with an improved range of entertainment options for a more enjoyable and peaceful flight. Nordic Sky’s unique program, displayed on 16-inch touch screens in business class and on 11-inch screens in economy class, shows the main stages of the flight, guiding passengers from departure throughout all stages of their journey, informing them when meals will be served, when rest lighting will be activated and when they can make purchases from the in-flight shopping service. This enables travelers to manage their time on-board effectively.
Along with European travelers, passengers from Asia are Finnair’s most frequent customers. One of its main objectives by 2020 is to double its Asian traffic volume from 2010. “The cornerstone of the company’s strategy is leveraging its geographical competitive advantage and the fastest connections in the growing market of air traffic between Asia and Europe,” says Dong-Hwan Kim, General Manager of Finnair Korea. “It’s also the only European airline that can operate flights to most Asian destinations on a 24-hour aircraft rotation, which means that the routes can be operated as round trips within 24 hours at regular times using a single aircraft.”
It’s this kind of efficiency that enables a record-high utilization rate in long-haul traffic, reduces the need for additional crew due to flight time restrictions and decreases fuel consumption and emissions thanks to shorter flight times.
Due to the growing number of travelers going in and out of Korea, Finnair established a Korea branch office in January 2007, operating direct flights between Helsinki and Seoul from June 2008. Kim says that more Koreans are becoming interested in Nordic culture, its education system and beautiful landscape.
Despite its strong presence in the global arena, Finnair knew that it had to do more to woo Korean passengers when it first entered the local market. To provide the highest level of service and convenience, the company hired Korean cabin crew members, constructed Korean signs at the Helsinki airport and provided in-flight Korean meals. Most notably, it implemented the Finnair Plus mileage program so that customers can stack points and redeem them for gift cards at Korean department stores. As a result, Korea has the second highest number of travelers using Finnair Plus points.
The airline also partnered with Finnish design house Marimekko since 2012 to design everything from tableware to fabrics for the aircraft. “The calm blue, green and light grey tones and the classic prints used in the Marimekko for Finnair collection are a perfect reflection of the Nordic tranquility and comfort that is present on our flights,” says Kim. “All the materials, including the light porcelain used in the business class tableware, are specially designed for aircraft usage.”
Although Korea has proved to be a suitable market for Finnair, Kim notes that regulations in the country should be eased because they’re a bottleneck for foreign investors in the market as other countries have different regulations. He adds that Korea could become a more optimal business environment by implementing market protectionist policies that don’t restrict fair competition.
So what’s next for Finnair? Because Finland is still an unfamiliar country to many Koreans, the company is working with Visit Finland to promote ‘StopOver Finland’, a program where travelers can experience and explore the country from five hours to five days. Kim says that Finnair will continue to invest in accelerated growth and embrace the business and digital transformation.
By Esther Oh (email@example.com)
Executive Consultant/Invest Korea