The MD-11: Crucial For Finnair’s Widebody Development

Finnair was the launch customer of the passenger MD-11. Its first example was registered OH-LGA and was delivered just before Christmas 1990, some 31 years ago. The type was used until 2010, after which the A340-300 and A330-300 took over.

Finnair’s MD-11s had 282 seats. This example, OH-LGB, was delivered in December 1991 and remained until 2010. It was scrapped in 2012. Photo: Javier Bravo Muñoz via Wikimedia.

Finnair had seven of the iconic trijets, three fewer than KLM. Completing the first four deliveries (LGA, B, C, and D) was achieved in April 1994. Finnair kept the first arrival (Alpha) until 2009, indicates, after which was used by World Airways until 2012. It was scrapped the following year.

Unusually, the original four aircraft were followed around a decade later by OH-LGE (2003), LGF (2004), and LGG (2005). While Echo and Foxtrot were initially delivered to Belgium’s City Bird, Golf was originally a Garuda Indonesia aircraft.

Finnair used the type on a limited number of intra-Europe routes. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia.

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The MD-11 played a crucial role for Finnair

The MD-11 had 282 seats and played a hugely important role for Finnair. The type was the airline’s sole widebody until the arrival of the A340-300 in 2006 and then the A330-300 in 2009. The A340 was used until 2017, with much more efficient twins then fully taking over. This shift nicely demonstrates fleet evolution.

The retirement of the MD-11 from scheduled service came on February 22nd, 2010 – after nearly 20 years of service. Golf (the last aircraft to be delivered) operated flight AY22 from Delhi back to the carrier’s Helsinki hub, analyzing Cirium schedules shows, with a scheduled arrival time of 14:15 local time.

Finnair's widebody development - 2004 to 2019
In a passenger role, the MD-11 wasn’t ever popular. This was mainly because of performance problems, including range, despite modifications and updates; fuel inefficiency and economic problems; bad timing; the rise of better-suited aircraft; and the decline of McDonnell Douglas. Image: Simple Flying using data from Cirium.

20 airports saw Finnair’s MD-11s

If 2004 to 2010 is added up, some 20 airports saw the type on a scheduled basis. The Thai capital, Bangkok, was overwhelmingly the most-served airport, as highlighted below. This was helped by the big popularity of Thailand among Finns and wider Scandinavians.

Finnair also used Bangkok for fifth-freedom routes to Hong Kong and Singapore, both until 2007. Hong Kong was then served non-stop only, while Singapore wasn’t served again until 2011, solely by the A340-300.

  • Bangkok: 785,370 seats
  • New York JFK: 488,706
  • Beijing: 480,246
  • Osaka Kansai: 408,900
  • Shanghai Pudong: 262,542
  • Delhi: 8,550
  • Guangzhou: 155,382
  • Hong Kong: 109,698
  • Tokyo Narita: 100,110
  • Nagoya: 40,326
  • Miami: 26,226
Finnair's main MD-11 destinations (2004 to 2010)
These were the main destinations for Finnair’s MD-11s between 2004 and 2010. Image: GCMap.

China was the top country

On a country basis, China topped the table. This was because Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai were all served by the MD-11. China was followed by Thailand, Japan, the United States, and India.

Spain, meanwhile, was the least-served, with the trijet appearing on a scheduled basis only to Malaga and Gran Canaria after 2004. At 2,920 miles, Helsinki to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, is one of the longest routes within Europe.

JFK was the second-largest destination by available seats. Photo: Dmitry Avdeev via Wikimedia.

On this day in 2006

This article is being written on July 12. Looking back 15 years, Finnair’s MD-11 departures from Helsinki were as follows. They nicely illustrate the carrier’s hub for Northeast Asia, which continues to this day.

  • 14:20 New York JFK
  • 17:00 Hong Kong
  • 17:15 Osaka
  • 17:15 Nagoya
  • 18:00 Beijing
  • 23:35 Bangkok (and to Singapore)

Did you fly any of Finnair’s MD-11s? If so, where did you go, and what did you think? Let us know in the comments.