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Finnair proposes to add Chennai, Bangalore to its radar

Helsinki. With a host of Finnish companies like Nokia having their hubs in Chennai and Bangalore, Nordic carrier Finnair soon proposes to add these two cities to its schedule as part of a larger strategy to expand in Asia.

“Direct air connectivity will also help bring Indian information technology and telecom professionals from India to our country,” according to Christer Haglund, senior vice-president for public affairs with Finnair.

“Chennai and Bangalore are on our radar for starting direct flights from Helsinki. There has been an increasing traffic of telecom and software professions from these southern cities of India to Finland,” Haglund told IANS.

The Nordic carrier, however, has indefinitely put on hold the proposal to resume flights between Mumbai and Helsnki. The Helsinki-Mumbai service was scheduled to re-start this Diwali after its suspension in August last year.

“The Mumbai-Helsinki sector has not been a particularly profitable route. So, we have not set any date for Mumbai operations to resume. But, as I said, we have these other destinations in mind.”

Haglund said Finnair was keen to expand in India and that was the reason why the frequency of New Delhi-Helsinki service was expanded to a daily operation since September against four days a week earlier.

The airline had commenced flights to Delhi in October 2006.

According to the Finnair official, due to losses sustained by the carrier — as has been the case with other airlines worldwide — any decision on adding new routes will not be taken in a hurry.

“We expect huge losses this calendar year. We were able to manage losses last year. But this is a very difficult year for us. Yet we are looking at new profitable routes like Toronto and other major US destinations,” said Haglund.

“An extension of that is: We are keen to make Helsinki the gateway between India and North America. Travelling via Helsinki is the shortest route between India and North America. There is a very good potential,” he said.

“We will also add new destinations in China and other Asian countries.”

Officials here said the Finnish government too has taken steps to ensure Helsinki becomes an attractive hub by lowering traffic and navigation charges by around 10 percent.

“The airport charges in Finland are among the lowest in Europe,” said Samuli Haapasalo, president and chief executive of Finavia, the state-run company that manages the 25-odd airports in this country.

“These steps have been taken to meet the economic challenges on account of the economic downturn worldwide. We propose to continue with the 10-percent cut in these charges next year as well,” Haapasalo told IANS.

Earlier in the day, Finavia threw open a swanky new terminal to visitors at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport here, built to handle 15-16 million passengers and 13.5 million items of baggage per annum.

Spread over 39,000 square metres, the new terminal is equipped with a luxurious spa, well-being services and a modern, well-appointed lounge. It has been built with support from Finnair, which marked its 85th anniversary last year.

Haapasalo said the new terminal cost the developer over $210 million and will also have large jet-ways to accommodate as many as eight wide-bodied aircraft at any given time.

“Location is basically the key here at the Helsinki airport,” said Haapasalo.

“We offer the shortest and the fastest route between Europe, Asia and North America. The new Helsinki airport opens Asia’s rapidly growing markets to Finland and the Finnish industry.

(IANS)