Helsinki International Airport is growing in importance, not only as the shortest route between Europe and Asia, but also as a regional hub in the Baltic and Nordic areas. A number of recent deals have confirmed its status as an important base for airlines.
This summer, Flybe and Finnair announced the acquisition of Finnish Commuter Airlines (FCA). Flybe will take the majority ownership and will use the name Flybe Nordic for the new operation.
“FCA is a great base to build on, with excellent routes and a talented team of employees,” says Jim French, CEO of Flybe. “It also has compelling growth opportunities. Everyone at Flybe is looking forward to working with Finnair and FCA, to drive forward our strategy of creating the largest and most profitable regional airline in the Nordic and Baltic States.”
Outside analysts have been impressed at the idea of building up a regional airline based in the greater Helsinki area.
“We think boosting the Finnair Helsinki hub is a good strategic move,” Royal Bank of Scotland analyst Andrew Lobbenberg told Reuters.
Others are looking at Helsinki-Vantaa, not as a hub for passengers, but as a new centre for cargo routes. Neff Capital Management, a Miami Florida-based private equity fund, started an all-cargo airline based in the capital area. Nordic Global Airlines (NGA) will have Finnair and Ilmarinen as minority shareholders. Neff’s president has extensive experience in the airline industry.
“We believe that Helsinki is a natural base for a wide-body freighter operation, given its proximity to Asia and location among the growing economies of Europe,” says Brian Neff, the President of Neff Capital. “We expect NGA to benefit from these natural advantages as it grows its fleet.”
Olivier Bonfils of Greater Helsinki Promotion believes that both geography and infrastructure make Helsinki-Vantaa an attraction to these global investors.
“I think one reason we have been chosen is that we already have many straight roads existing to Asia; after all Finland is already used by many passengers as their gateway between Europe and Asia,” he says. “We have many connections with Russia, especially St. Petersburg. Also, we have harbours like Vuosaari and a good transportation infrastructure.”
Text: DAVID J. CORD, Helsinki Times