Finnair will initially introduce its new premium economy class cabin on services to the US, the company said Dec. 2.

The first premium economy cabin will be installed in one of the airline’s Airbus A330-300s in 4Q 2020, with all refurbishments to be completed by 2022.

Finnair currently flies to six US destinations—New York JFK, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas—with the last of these operated with oneworld partners.

A working party is examining the optimum configuration for the aircraft to be modified. Finnair has two cabin layouts in its sub-fleet of eight A330-300s, with a higher-density variant used for long-haul leisure services to destinations such as Bangkok.

Details of the new premium economy cabin remain scarce, although it could have fewer seats abreast than the economy cabin, which is in a 2-4-2 layout. 

Currently, Finnair has an “economy comfort” section in its main cabin, with extended legroom and extras such as amenity kits, noise-canceling headphones and one hour of free Wi-Fi. The new premium economy grade will be “similar to, but better than” competing premium economy offerings from other carriers, Finnair general manager-UK, Ireland and Benelux Andre Fish said at a media briefing in London.

Premium economy seats will initially be offered as an ancillary, as Finnair cannot offer them as a separate cabin until a minimum number of aircraft, probably three, have been converted. Then it can be sold as a separate product on the industry’s global distribution systems.

Fish said customers for the new product are likely to be a mix of leisure travelers trading up from economy and corporate customers whose travel rules do not allow business-class expenditure. The UK is a particularly strong premium-economy market, he added.

The briefing was held to mark the Dec. 15 start of Finnnair’s new Helsinki-Sapporo service. Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, is a popular ski resort. The new 2X-weekly service was initially intended only to be for the winter season, but after collaboration with the local tourism board, it will now operate year-round to take advantage of Hokkaido’s hot springs and hiking trails.

Finnair believes that 60% of demand for the Sapporo service will come from the UK. Finnair links both London Heathrow and Manchester to Helsinki with up to nine flights daily. The airline said the new direct Sapporo service will eliminate the need to switch terminals in Tokyo. Similarly, Fish said Japanese residents of Hokkaido were delighted not to have to make the trip to the capital to link up with European-bound flights.

Sapporo will be Finnair’s fifth Japanese destination. The route will be operated using an A330-300 in a three-cabin configuration, with 32-45 seats in business class, 40 in economy comfort and 178-217 in economy, depending on the version of A330-300 used.

Alan Dron, alandron@adeptditorial.com