Flybe takes majority stake in FinnComm in JV with Finnair

Flybe and Finnair have set up a 60:40 joint venture ownership of Finnish Commuter Airlines (FinnComm) with Flybe taking over the day-to-day operation of the airline from Monday 1 August.

The move comes after an agreement last year for Flybe to operate turboprops in the Finnish market was dropped. Flybe COO Andrew Strong, however, admitted in the February-March 2011 issue of Low-Fare & Regional Airlines that discussions were still continuing and the new deal is the result of those talks.

With the intention of expanding into Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia, Flybe says the new airline will differ substantially to those regional airlines previously operating in these marketplaces. Firstly, it plans to introduce Flybe’s already successful quality low-fare concept/product to the Finnish, Nordic and Baltic regions, allowing millions of business and leisure passengers the opportunity to travel at affordable prices. In addition, the company will benefit from Finnair’s excellent connections to Europe and Asia as well as its local expertise. In short, the pair say, Flybe and Finnair want to create more Flying Finns by offering an affordable aviation product that understands the needs of the Finnish nation.

The new carrier will fly non-stop and directly between regional airports enabling customers to save time. This system of point-to-point flying will open up new destinations and will complement Finnair’s international network operations. The new airline is designed to support and stimulate regional Nordic economies in the way that Flybe has already so successfully done around the United Kingdom and Europe. By introducing new regional routes, new flights and new timetables, the airline aims to invigorate previously unstimulated markets that until now have not been served by other carriers.

Details of an extensive new route network that will operate from the start of the IATA Winter Season (Sunday 30th October 2011) will be announced in mid August. This will supplement the key lifeline routes from the Finnish regions currently operated by FinnComm.

Flybe says it chose FinnComm as an acquisition target as its economics make it a viable base from which to expand into the Nordic and Baltic States region; maintaining this competitive advantage will be a key facet of the future strategy.

Commenting on Flybe’s vision, Jim French, the company’s chairman and chief executive remarked, “Finnish and Nordic passengers will see something very different from what has been available to them in the past. Flybe and Finnair have come together in a genuine partnership of equals that will bring huge benefits not just for Finnish passengers but also for the country’s economy.

“We look forward to working closely with FinnComm staff as we embark together on this exciting new venture to introduce a great value, high quality product to the Finnish travelling public,” added French.

Mika Vehvilainen, chief executive of Finnair gave his analysis of the benefits of the new company. “We have joined forces with Flybe to establish a strong, complementary and cost-efficient operator in the .Nordic market. In addition to point-to-point connections, the airline will form an effective feeder platform for our international operations,” he observed. “We also felt that thanks to Flybe’s long experience in regional point-to-point flying the company was the best possible partner for a network operator like Finnair. Together we will be able to take the customer experience to a new level."

"We are establishing a strong player in the Northern European local aviation market. The vision of the new company is in line with Finnair’s partnership strategy and it is an example of how we are building powerful networks with other leading industry parties, such as Flybe,” Vehvilainen noted.

Juhani Pakari, chief executive of FinnComm commented, “These negotiations have been long and thorough, and we are very happy with the result. This is a good solution for customers as well as for our staff. This is an excellent opportunity to develop the company to be the best regional airline in Northern Europe.”

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