My flight into Eastern Europe on Finnair touched down at Helsinki Airport in the early morning. I had two hours to burn before my next flight. I dread European airports at 7am especially after negative experiences with un-manned counters at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, absence of food and beverage at Malpensa Milan Airport and system shutdowns at London Heathrow Airport. Maybe I'm pampered by Changi Airport in Singapore which operates round-the-clock. During my brief stay I experienced many positives about this long haul airport in Northern Europe which handles nearly 15 million passengers a year. It was my first time transiting in the Helsinki Airport but it definitely will not be my last.
Helsinki Airport boast excellent connectivity between Asia, Europe, United States and within Europe, serving 130 cities in 35 countries on 3 continents.
It offers the fastest and most direct route travel between Europe and Asia, with my flight from Singapore taking less than 12 hours. Friends from Japan will be pleased to note that Helsinki also provides the shortest and fastest connections between Europe and Japan, which probably explains why Japan Airlines will be introducing a B787 non-stop service for the first time in 20 years.
Helsinki Airport is also Northern Europe's most connected to Asia with 70 weekly flights to 11 direct destinations including major hubs like Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore with Tokyo coming online in March 2013.
As a leading transfer airport in Northern Europe, Helsinki provides excellent connections to neighbouring Scandinavian countries, the Baltics and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as to other destinations in Western Europe. Daily connections to the United States include New York and Chicago.540 daily departures and landings bring 15 million passengers through Helsinki Airport of whom 1.7 Million travelled to Asia in 2011.
Helsinki Airport's compact and well-designed terminals under one roof is a boon. All arrivals and departures are located in the same building. Distances to gates are short and they are along the same walkway. There is less crowding and queuing, translating into less stress, which makes for pleasant travel. With connecting times as short as 35 minutes, they are among the shortest in Europe. Helsinki Airport is definitely designed for quick and easy transits.
Work-friendly and Convenient
Helsinki Airport provides a work-friendly environment that I appreciate as a business traveller. There is unlimited use of free Wi-Fi with speeds of 100Mbs and automatic connection under "Free WI-FI - Helsinki Airport".
If you don't have access to business class lounges, three Suvanto lounges near gates 16-17, 26 and 36 offer quiet spaces for working. The result of a design collaboration between Finnish companies Martela, UPM, Fortum and Karelia-Upofloor, they provide privacy while working on the laptop or making calls
For folks without a laptop, pay-per-use computers with internet connection that accept major credit cards are available at eService Bar, next to gate 20. Internet kiosks which serve as pay phones are also location throughout the terminal.
There are abundant power sources for the device-plenty traveller. Cafés and restaurants provide table top sockets and charging spots are distributed throughout the terminal to make it easy for you to charge and use your devices.
What truly differentiates Helsinki Airport from the rest is it first-in-the-world wireless mobile charging based on Finnish innovation, Powerkiss. Travellers who forget their phone chargers can now rent or buy a charger stick from the nearest café and charge their phones at any of the Powerkiss charging spots marked with a red circle. How cool is that?
130 services including shops, cafés and restaurants are open at most hours to make waiting for a flight an enjoyable experience. Unlike other European airports, most of the shops are open daily from 5.30am to 8.30pm with those located in the long-haul area after passport control opened till 11pm.
Helsinki Airport Duty Free shops feature international and Finnish fashion accessories, shoes and bags in addition to the usual international brands of fragrances, cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco products, sweets and souvenirs.
There was also Farmers Market offering a variety of interesting Nordic foods like reindeer, moose and bear meat products. Being a foodie, I couldn't resist sampling and purchased some cold smoked slices of reindeer. I was reminded of dense pieces of smoked and salty beef carpaccio.
I was informed that you could leave the airport and visit the Finnish Aviation Museum if you had 4 hours to spare. The Museum located just 20 to 25 minutes walk from the terminal or EUR7 by taxi houses 80 aircraft and aviation-related items. Apart from Wednesdays when the closing time is 8pm, the Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
A Design and Art Gallery
Design and Art is one of the central themes to Helsinki Airport. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2012, the airport is also
partners with the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012.
Design and art are showcased throughout the year in changing exhibitions, shops, restaurants and general public spaces. With time on your hands while waiting, you can enjoy the airport's collection of Finnish art masterpieces. There is a Design gallery open to all passengers at Gate 11. The current exhibition features 15 chairs from Finnish designers and passengers are encourage to experience the designs by taking a seat.
Near Gate 28 is a Junkers A 50 Junior sport plane, that have entertained passengers since 1976. One of the first metal-skinned airplanes and now part of the Finnish Aviation Museum collection, this plane has travelled the length and breadth of Europe and made a round trip from Finland to Cape Town, South Africa while flown by legendary Finnish aviation record-holder, Väinö Bremer in the 1930s.
The airport also introduced a novel idea of recycling books via a Book Swap on the 2nd floor of Gate 27. Passengers can pick up something to read and drop off books they are done with.
I have come to regard Helsinki Airport as Europe's international airport from its efforts to engage passengers from around the world with the help of the latest technology, innovative design and personalised service. The airport decided to celebrate a non-European festival with passengers in January this year. So for the 2012 Lunar New Year period, the airport implemented an 18-day program to entertain passengers with traditional decorations, tasting of Asian stir-fry and specialty dishes, and daily shows such as dragon dances, Finnish-Chinese dance performances and live music. Their continue investment in upping the service and comfort levels for passengers will help Helsinki Airport maintain a leadership position in Europe.