Finnair is focused on its position as a niche European carrier whose size allows it to be flexible, the airline’s CEO said.

Talking on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Seoul June 3, Topi Manner said Finnair has found a good space where it can operate between Europe’s large LCCs and the flagship legacy carriers.

“We are focused on our niche that connects Europe with Asia via Helsinki and having the right scale,” he said.

For Finnair, a oneworld global alliance member, joint ventures (JV), partnerships and strategic alliances support its ability to grow as an independent airline, Manner said.

“Finnair would generally be open to more JVs going forward besides those we have with Japan Air Lines, British Airways and American Airlines,” he said.

Finnair has also recently announced new codeshare agreements with Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines and Shanghai-based Juneyao Air. Manner described these as “stepping stones for us in China to increase our presence there.”

Finnair operates to seven cities in greater China with 42 weekly flights this summer. Manner says the escalating US-China trade dispute is starting to have an effect on travel demand.

“It has been a bit more subdued in terms of growth in China, although we still see the overall demand growing. It’s all about connecting Europe with China,” he said.

Finnair expects to see an overall capacity growth of 10% in 2019, but revenue growth will not match.

“We are profitable and Finnair will remain profitable in 2019. Increasing fuel prices are challenging, but managing growth is the name of the game for us,” Manner said.

Finnair is also planning to add more frequencies on existing long-haul routes.

“In terms of having the right network balance between long-haul and short-haul routes, Finnair operates to 100 destinations in Europe alone, so that gives us the balance with long-haul,” Manner said.

Manner said the carrier is evaluating a future narrowbody acquisition which will be, “the biggest investment by Finnair in the next decade.”

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at