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Finnair posts rare first-quarter profits, plans 15% capacity boost

Finland's national airline announced a profitable first quarter, but investors were unimpressed. Meanwhile the company’s share of female pilots seems to be declining.

Lentokonetta tankataan Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalla.
A Finnair jet at Helsinki Airport. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

Finnair has posted its 14th consecutive quarter of growth, with a profit of nearly four million euros from January through March.

The airline’s comparable operating result swung to a profit of 3.9 million euros. During the same period of last year it lost nine million euros.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected an operating loss of 2.7 million. Still, investors seemed to be unimpressed, with shares dropping by more than six percent by mid-afternoon.

The flag carrier has remained mostly profitable since late 2016, following an era of losses.

Pekka Vauramo, who took over as CEO in mid-2013, said he was pleased with the latest stats, as the early part of the year is usually the weakest.

"For the first time in ten years we achieved a profitable comparable operating result in the first quarter, carrying a record three million passengers as well as expanding capacity by nearly one fifth in a quarter that is traditionally the weakest for us," said Vauramo.

Tougher competition seen on Asian and American routes

Fuel costs, including hedging results and emissions-trading costs, rose by 14 percent. Most of that was due to volume growth, but emission-trading costs was the fastest-growing item in the category.

Finnair expects international air travel to grow briskly this year, with increasing competition on routes linking Europe with both Asia and North America. Finnair plans to boost its capacity by more than 15 percent this year, and to carry nearly three million passengers.

SK: Share of female pilots declining

Also on Wednesday, the Finnish newsmagazine Suomen Kuvalehti reported that Finnair’s cockpits remain nearly all-male. The airline has wrapped up a pilot recruitment round that began last autumn. Out of 4,200 applicants, it selected 107. Five of them are women. A record 630 female fliers applied, but less than one percent were accepted. Thus the airline’s proportion of women pilots seems to be shrinking. At the end of last year, Finnair had 24 female pilots, nearly three percent of its total 877 pilots.

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