What sells in Asia?

Flights to Finnair’s newest destination, Singapore, will start in May 30th, 2011. Petteri Kostermaa, Finnair’s new appointment as head of its Singapore sales unit, has the task in his new post of selling the tickets of a relatively unknown European airline. What sales assets will Finnair use to attract customers at the new destination?


Most Asian passengers want to travel at night.
“In this way, they save on hotel costs and working time. Seen from Singapore, Finnair is therefore a superior product: a daily connection with a suitable timetable,” explains Kostermaa.

Finnair flyes daily from Helsinki to Singapore at 11.30 p.m. The flight arrives to Singapore at 4.10 p.m. A flight to Helsinki leaves at 11.30 p.m. and reaches the destination at 6.35 a.m. And what else is important? Well, the range of destinations offered, of course. The wide-bodied aircraft will scarcely be filled with Singaporeans who want to acquaint themselves en masse with Helsinki alone.

“There certainly are some, however. Singaporeans are keen and curious travellers, and they have not been offered flights to the Nordic countries before. Finland as a country and Nordic nature are known to Singaporeans and they are also interested in Finland’s high level of education. More important for Finnair, however, is to present itself as an airline of the whole of Europe, because there are excellent onward connections from the Singapore flights to our 50 or so European destinations,” says Kostermaa.

Singapore is also home to many people who have moved from Europe to Singapore to work.
“The family and friends of these people are often in Europe, which naturally gives rise to travel needs,” observes Kostermaa.

Finnair´s Singapore route is expected to be used most, however, by those who travel in their work between Singapore and the cities of Europe. A smooth transfer at Helsinki Airport is therefore absolutely essential, as to many European destinations there are no direct flight from Asia, so passengers have to change somewhere. Prime position, therefore, is held by the company which can offer the best timetable and the smoothest transfer.
“Many people are fed up with the congestion and slowness of the big airports. Helsinki is efficient and compact, and when passengers change flights there’s no need for them to move from one terminal to another. In addition, time is gained due to the fact that the most direct route from Asia to most of Europe runs via Helsinki,” says Kostermaa.

For business passengers, a transfer is not necessarily a bad thing – on the contrary.
“After a night flight, it’s nice to stretch one’s legs and prepare for the working day in a lounge. Moreover, the Finnair Spa & Saunas, which opened in December 2009, is a considerable sales asset – one not to be found elsewhere in Europe. A shower, a sauna and even an invigorating massage before arriving at one’s final destination gives a totally different start to a day of meetings,” adds Kostermaa.

The product aimed at Finnair’s business passengers is, according to Kostermaa, top quality.
“Our business class is magnificent. There is not a huge number of business class seats in our aircraft, so an exclusive milieu is maintained. We are better able to attend to and recognize each of our customers, which is an important part of a distinctive service experience. I certainly intend to get to know every one of our business class passengers departing from Singapore,” says Kostermaa.

Of Finnair´s Asian flight passengers, generally half come from Asia and half from Europe. The exception is the Japan routes, on which around 70−80% of passengers are from Japan. On Thailand flights, most of the passengers, in contrast, are from Scandinavia.
“The passenger distribution of Singapore flights may be similar to the other Asian flights, but we also expect a passenger stream from Australia,” says Kostermaa.

The same requirement applies to Singapore as to Finnair’s other Asian destinations: if the goal is to attract locals onto the flights, then the cabin crew must include individuals who know the local language and culture.
“Singapore is a multi-cultural country, so many kinds of special characteristics have to be taken into consideration when serving and interacting with customers. Asian cultures differ substantially from European cultures and also from one another. Local service staff both in the cabin and in sales work are therefore above all a guarantee of good service and attentiveness to customers. Many misunderstandings and obvious blunders are avoided when due attention is paid to cultural differences,” concludes Kostermaa.

The article is published in Logbook, Finnair´s Annual Review 2010. Read more articles from http://www.finnairgroup.com/linked/en/konserni/Logbook_2010_en.PDF