Helsinki-based Finnair, the flag carrier of Finland, operates a mostly-modern Airbus fleet for long-haul routes. The airline was also the European launch customer for the Airbus A350 XWB, and just last weekend, celebrated three years since the first delivery.
However, last month a Finnair A330 aircraft was damaged at Chicago O’Hare Airport after a high loader accidentally hit part of the aircraft fuselage. The jet is now out-of-service, leaving Finnair (who operate 100% of their fleet, given their vast route network) with the need for one replacement aircraft.
Today, the Finnish carrier has confirmed that it will ‘wet lease’ a single Airbus A330 aircraft from Air Italy — Italy’s second largest, and ‘newest’ airline.
Air Italy used to be known as ‘Meridiana’, prior to Qatar Airways acquiring a 49% stake in Meridiana and then rebranding the airline as Air Italy.
What is ‘Wet Lease’?
A wet-leasing agreement (generally speaking) is the supply of an aircraft, with pilots/cabin crew. A standard ‘lease’ agreement of an aircraft would typically exclude the flight/cabin crew.
Wet-leasing is costly for an airline, but there’s a whole division of the aviation industry dedicated to the concept — given there will always be an airline in need of a last-minute plane, somewhere around the world.
Portuguese airline ‘HiFly’ is a wet-lease airline, meaning its entire business model is dedicated around being able to supply airlines with last minute aircraft and crew. The demand is so great, that earlier this year HiFly took delivery of an Airbus A380 — purely to operate on an ‘as and when’ basis.
Which Flights Will Finnair Use Air Italy?
Air Italy aircraft and crew will be operating Finnair flights to Chicago and Miami as follows:
• All flights between Helsinki and Chicago (AY09/AY10) from Oct 12 to Oct 29. Finnair has four weekly return flights between Helsinki and Chicago, the flight days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
• Five return flights between Helsinki and Miami (AY07/AY08) on the following dates: Oct 14, Oct 16, Oct 21, Oct 23 and Oct 30.
Air Italy’s A330s feature a Qatar Airways cabin, the cabin has elements of Air Italy’s brand, including the antimacassars, and in-flight entertainment.
Business Class has 24 full-flat seats, arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.
There are 232 seats in Economy Class, each with a seat-back in-flight entertainment system.
While all cockpit and cabin crew will be Air Italy’s — Finnair have arranged to have two Finnair cabin crew members on board each flight, in order to support the delivery of Finnair’s customer service concept. This in itself, is very important, as ultimately Finnair’s passengers did not book to fly with Air Italy, and Air Italy crew will also be unaware of Finnair’s service style.
What’s interesting in this agreement, is the behind the scenes nature of how this deal came about. For Finnair, the airline has several wet-leasing options on the same continent, including HiFly, Titan Airways, and others. How did Air Italy end up with the job? Air Italy is 49% owned by Qatar Airways — and since the acquisition of this stake, Qatar has been able to introduce some of its older A330 aircraft (which Qatar has replaced with newer A350s) into the Air Italy fleet, all prior to Air Italy’s own 787s arriving from Boeing next year.
Both Qatar and Finnair are ‘oneworld’ alliance members, meaning the Qatari carrier and Finnish carrier are essentially partners. With Air Italy not having any real fleet constraints (due to its ability to have new aircraft introduced from Qatar Airways), Finnair has struck a worthwhile deal with the Italian carrier, via its partner airline, Qatar.
Often in a wet-leasing arrangement between an airline and a wet-lease operator, airlines tend to dismiss the need for having one of its own crew onboard the flight — therefore it’s good to see Finnair make this decision. Not only will it help the crew deliver a smooth service, but it is comforting for Finnair’s loyal passengers, who may be unfamiliar with Air Italy, given the latest version of the airline only surfaced earlier this year.
Have you had a chance to fly Italy’s second-largest airline?