Finnair takes digital to its heart as it opens the door to the new world of distribution

Nordic flag carrier Finnair has always been open to innovation and the airline is now blazing a trail to take advantage of new distribution methods to boost the customer experience and ensure it remains at the forefront of industry development.

Alongside partnering with Amadeus to make travel bookings easier and more flexible for customers across all of its online platforms, it has become the first non-Chinese airline in the world to collaborate with Chinese JD.com, also known as Jingdong and one of the leading e-commerce companies in China.

Finnair will be the first non-Chinese airline to open a flagship store for online flight bookings on the JD Travel platform, in the beginning of 2018. Over the past decade, the airline has placed a strong strategic focus on the Chinese market and is increasingly becoming one of the favoured European carriers operating between Europe and China.

As a travel service platform for one of China’s largest online retailers, JD Travel benefits from JD.com’s 258.3 million customer base. The collaboration also includes promotions and loyalty member partnerships allowing users to exchange points between Finnair Plus and JD Travel.

“We are seeing a lot of change in the distribution field,” Juha Järvinen, chief commercial officer, Finnair told The Blue Swan Daily at the recent CAPA-ACTE Global Summit in London, acknowledging that Asia, a key area in the airline’s long haul strategy, was a key area for development, particularly in the Chinese and Japanese markets.

While Mr Järvinen acknowledged that “widening distribution channels [through NDC technology] is a roadmap” for the business, supplementing GDS and direct sales, the Finnair website and its airline mobile app account for one quarter of the company’s sales, forming the single most important sales channel for the airline.

Its partnership with Amadeus and its newest digital retailing API with Representational State Transfer (REST) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), new flexibility will enhance Finnair’s own online retailing experience, allowing booking flows to be adapted to what works best for the traveller, without the need to follow the common airline booking sequence.

Alongside the distribution developments, The Blue Swan Daily spoke to Mr Järvinen about how Finnair’s international joint businesses are supporting its global strategy and supporting new routes and expansion in existing markets. He confirmed Finnair’s expanded programme into Tokyo is performing well (“The flights are full and yields are developing in the right direction”) and described its San Francisco seasonal route from Helsinki as one of the airline’s “best performing profitability wise”.