On Wednesday, 15th December 2021, TravelRadar was in Helsinki Airport (HEL) to check out the recently opened Terminal 2. The brand new terminal, a beautiful showcase of Finnish design, expertise and nature, opened its doors just two weeks ago, supporting the continuous growth of HEL, the flag carrier Finnair and all the airlines flying to the Finnish capital, ensuring a smooth customer experience.
Our guide in the new terminal was Katja Siberg, Senior Vice President of Marketing Communication and Customer Experience of Finavia. Finavia is the airport company of HEL and 19 other airports around Finland.
The expansion plan
The opening of the new terminal is one part of a 10-year expansion plan, which started back in 2014. Step by step, the airport is expanding and improving its premises, and this is one of the final stages. As shown in the picture, both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 have been largely expanded, in order to support the growth of passengers and flights that the old terminal was not able to handle completely. The new terminal is located in the dark blue area in the picture below:
At the moment, in the new terminal, only a few check-in kiosks are available. In small steps, in the first months of 2022, all the other facilities will be opened gradually: first the totality of check-in counters (Finavia is considering to move here also Terminal 1’s check-in facilities), then the new security checks will be open for passengers. After that, the old departure hall will be converted into an airside shopping and dining area, enabling a much larger space for passengers waiting to board their flights.
In the next years, a hotel will also be built by the company Avia Real Estate, joining the three existing hotels in the airport’s surroundings.
The expansion plan should come to an end in 2023, “but airports are never fully ready“, comments Mrs Siberg, “there is always room for change and improvement“.
A customer-centred terminal
Finavia‘s customer promise is “For smooth travelling“, and this new terminal reflects perfectly their core value.
The terminal has been designed by the Finnish firm ALA Architects, which also designed Helsinki’s central library. It is a huge structure made mostly with wood and glass, and it wants to give passengers a sense of home, representing Finland at its best. Also, the roof is finished with true Finnish spruce.
The high ceilings and the white colours give the terminal a fresh and calm atmosphere. The whole design process took very much into account the customer experience: the usage of sinuous lines and shapes gives the idea to naturally guide the passenger through the terminal. The big windows provide a lot of natural light. “Every single line has a meaning, and we want to ensure the best experience for passengers in a relaxing and well-designed airport“, said Mrs Siberg. Also, the new security check area, which will open during Spring 2022, has been designed in order to make it more a relaxing area: “we used a lot of pastel shades of blue, known to give people a sense of calmness: it’s a perfect fit for security control areas, which are usually quite stressful for passengers“.
The arrivals hall, which is the core of the landside area, welcomes passengers with a beautiful nature composition at the middle of the hall, called Luoto Diorama. This beautiful spot is a combination of European and Asian styles, a fusion of Finnish forests and Japanese zen gardens. “This is the first thing that the arriving passengers see, it’s the first impression they get of Finland. It’s a celebration of nature. We decided to integrate some Asian elements into the composition because we want to remind that Helsinki is the best and fastest gateway to Asia“, commented Siberg.
Around the gorgeous nature composition, several services have been opened: a 24/7 supermarket, a coffee shop, a classy cocktail bar, a kiosk, some fast-food restaurants, an iconic Moomin Shop (if you’re unfamiliar with Moomins, check out here!), an information centre and some car rental offices, with more to come during next spring (a pharmacy and a food court with five restaurants). Also, a business lounge will be open in the arrival hall: the lounge will be open to all passengers, and it will be a space for working, studying, or just relaxing at the terminal.
Close to Luoto Diorama, only for the holidays season, passengers can also meet Santa Claus and take a picture with him!
The new terminal is also a great example of multimodal transportation: the airport’s train station is basically into the terminal, bus stops are just in front of the terminal and a large taxi area has been arranged on the side, all having direct access to the terminal. Also, parking is within walking distance from the airport.
Of course, health measures have been taken into consideration: complex systems of cleaning has been put in the act.
Hard times but great results
In its simplicity, the terminal is gorgeous, and it looks like passengers are really enjoying it. The feedback received so far is very positive, also from Finavia’s workers, who are very proud to finally see the airport expansion becoming reality.
Despite the very hard times the aviation industry is facing, Finavia has decided to move on with the expansion plan. “It is also a way to get ready for when better times will come“, said Siberg.
Finnish airports have been impacted very hard by the pandemic, with passenger numbers dropping very low. At the moment, the number of passengers travelling through Helsinki Airport is around 50% of pre-pandemic capacity, so the road to full recovery is still quite long. However, Finavia demonstrated a strong sense of resilience, and the whole plan is running on time and within the budget.
Also, Finavia is working very closely with all the stakeholders at the airport, in order to ensure a great place to work for everyone. All the players at the airport (main airlines, ground handlers, different service providers) were involved in the process of expansion, as “the airport environment must meet the needs of all our colleagues“. For example, a 3D tour of the terminal had been arranged for the stakeholders, and they were asked for feedback.
My airport, your airport, everyone’s airport
As mentioned, the new terminal really puts the customers at the centre. Well, Finavia created a creative campaign to give even more importance to the passengers.
The airport, in contrast to many other airports in the world, is not named after an important figure, but its official name is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and Vantaa is the city where the airport is, some 16km far from Helsinki city centre. “Our airport is not named after an important person, as many airports usually do elsewhere in the world – said Siberg – so we thought that the passengers can name it after themselves for a minute. This is something that the world has never seen before“.
Above the sign “Helsinki Airport”, a screen has been put. Customers are invited to go to myhelsinkiairport.fi and type their name. After some minutes (depending on the line), the name will appear on the screen for some time (around one minute).
This ingenious marketing campaign, which has gathered a lot of public interest, is at the moment planned to continue until the end of December. So make sure to “own” the airport for a minute if you travel to Helsinki!
A commitment to sustainability
Finns are very proud of the amazing nature of their country, and sustainability is a very hot topic for the nation: one of the first points of the Finnish government’s agenda is, indeed, the goal of becoming a completely carbon-neutral country by 2035.
The new terminal has been made with sustainable material, and the building is 30% more energy-efficient than the regulations require. Most of the energy of the airport is supplied by solar panels installed above the terminal and the new parking area, and also the runways’ lighting has been changed. On the new parking building, one floor has been dedicated to electric cars, with charging points.
Finavia is a pioneer in sustainable aviation: out of the parameters that Airport Council International (ACI) outlined for more sustainable airports, Finavia is already beyond most of them, “but for sure we’re not stopping here“, said Siberg. Helsinki Airport has become carbon neutral in 2017, and the complete Finavia network of 20 airports has reached this goal in 2019. The objective, now, is to work for net-zero emission airports.
What do you make of this amazing new terminal? Let us know in the comments!
Kiitos paljon (many thanks) to Katja Siberg, Finavia and the whole Helsinki Airport staff for the visit!