Finnair, which is heavily promoting its routes to Asia, is keen on setting up a new cooperation with Norwegian Air, the discount carrier that’s been flying high both in and out of Norway. The two carriers could team up, with Norwegian carrying Finnair’s intercontinental passengers within the Nordic area.
Finnair confirmed to financial news service Bloomberg that the airlines were discussing various forms of cooperation. Among them is a system under which Norwegian could act as a feeder airline for Finnair, while Finnair can carry Norwegian passengers on to intercontinental destinations.
Norwegian confirmed talks with Finnair, telling Aftenposten.no that it was most likely Finnair could send its Asia passengers on to destinations on Norwegian routes.
Finnair bills itself as “the fast airline between Europe and Asia,” and currently serves nine Asian destinations from its Helsinki hub including Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Delhi, Seoul and Bangkok.
Norwegian has been keen on launching its own flights to Asia and Daniel Skjeldam, Norwegian’s commercial director, told Aftenposten the airline still is. “We have said that 2011 can be a possible start-up time for routes to Asia and that still applies,” Skjeldam said. “Conservations with Finnair have no effect on those plans.”
Coincidentally or not, Norwegian is launching new routes from Oslo and Stockholm to Helsinki. Finnair owns nearly 5 percent of Norwegian’s stock. Norwegian bought FlyNordic from Finnair in 2007.
Frode Steen, a professor at business school NHH in Bergen, told Aftenposten that Norwegian is faced with making some important decisions. “They can choose to be either a pure, low-cost company or they can become more of a traditional network company, for example through cooperation with Finnair,” Steen said.
A network would open up new possibilities, new routes and new income sources, but challenge its low-cost profile and open up the Norwegian market to other players like EasyJet. Norwegian already is battling competition from RyanAir, and recently gave up several routes from Moss Lufthavn Rygge, where RyanAir is expanding service.
“I think (Norwegian boss Bjørn) Kjos really wants to try (a network),” Steen said, because it could help Norwegian compete even harder against Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). A cooperation between Norwegian and Finnair would be seen as a strong competitor to SAS’ routes to Asia and on routes like Bergen-Helsinki.