Finnair has firmed up its decision to acquire the A350 by signing a firm contract for the purchase of nine Airbus A350-900s. The Finnish carrier also has options for four additional aircraft. Finnair had initially announced its intention to modernise and increase its long range capacity with the new Airbus aircraft in December 2005.

The first A350-900s will be delivered in 2012, offering unrivalled performance and economics across Finnair’s long-haul network to Asia, and a brand new concept in a 2-class cabin comfort for 314 passengers. The aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1700 engines.

Finnair has also ordered three new A340-300Es, to sustain the strong expansion of its Asian traffic from the spring of 2007. The A340-300Es ("E" for Enhanced) will accommodate 268 passengers with the most comfortable seating in each class. The A340-300E features the latest flight deck equipment, provides increased passenger comfort and is equipped with CFM International CFM56-5C4/P engines, bringing lower fuel burn and emissions.

Finnair already successfully operates a fleet of 29 Airbus A320 Family aircraft, including 11 A319s, 12 A320s and six A321s.

Jukka Hienonen, Finnair President and CEO pointed out: "This is the biggest fleet modernisation in Finnair’s history. The decision reflects our confidence and commitment to our Asian growth strategy. It will enable us to open new destinations and to add frequencies to current destinations where demand is greatest. The introduction of a new more efficient and environmentally positive fleet will in time generate big cost savings."

Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Gustav Humbert said: "We are proud to see Finnair joining the growing list of launch customers for the A350 and pleased to participate in their long-haul fleet expansion with our long-range products. By delivering a true Family of products, Airbus responds to the market’s needs in terms of technology, reliability, economics and passenger appeal. Therefore we are confident of a successful integration of the new A340s and A350s in Finnair’s existing A320 Family fleet."

Expected to enter service in 2010, the A350 Family will initially include two members. The A350-800 will typically carry 253 passengers in a three-class configuration up to 8,800 nm/16,300 km. Its larger sistership, the A350-900, selected by Finnair, will accommodate as many as 300 passengers in a three-class layout on ranges of up to 7,500 nm/13,890 km.

These new aircraft share the technologically advanced innovations of the A380 and are endowed with the latest technologies. With a new composite wing and a fuselage made of aluminium lithium that combine to give the whole aircraft up to 60 per cent advanced materials, plus a new landing gear, a new cabin, and up to 90 per cent new manufacturing part numbers, the A350 will have a great advantage when it comes to fuel consumption and seat-mile costs as well as cash operating costs. In addition, it will retain full operational commonality with the current Airbus wide-body long-range fleet, allowing this new aircraft to benefit from the "Family effect", complementing the current leading A330 and A340 Family with which it shares the same Type rating.

To date, total firm orders and commitments for the new Airbus A350 stand at 182 from 14 customers, including 100 firm orders.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.