In Finnish Lapland, close to the border of Sweden and Norway, sits Enontekiö Airport, a gateway to the rough beauty of Northern nature.
”I’ve traveled to many places in the world, and yet something about arriving at Enontekiö is still really unique. The rugged, nearly virginal Lapland nature starts almost straight from the airport gates,” says Finavia’s Veli-Pekka Pitkänen, Director, Northern Finland.
Pitkänen describes Enontekiö as a nature lover’s haven with strong influences from the area’s indigenous Samí culture. With its location 300 meters above sea level, it’s also the highest airport in Finland.
Personal service for passengers
December is the most important month for Enontekiö. Over 20 000 passengers land at the airport, most of them around Christmas on charter flights from Europe. Enontekiö is one of the smallest airports in Finland.
“Compared to nearby Kittilä Airport, which has over ten times as much traffic, the atmosphere in Enontekiö is quainter. The passengers are in close contact with staff, who sometimes even assist them by hand at the airport,” Pitkänen says.
Customer service has had a personal touch throughout the ages. Back in the 1990s, the airport manager even personally shook hands with each arriving passenger.
“The manager back then, Eino Niemelä, was quite the local personality, and cared about the airport down to the smallest details. When he was asked to assess passenger satisfaction at Enontekiö, he simply said: ‘They all have a smile on their face when I shake their hands’,” Pitkänen laughs.
Charter traffic keeps the airport alive
The majority of passengers at Enontekiö are from the UK.
“A British travel agency first began charter flights to Enontekiö in the mid-1990s, and this tradition has kept up and grown for three decades. Now we have, for instance, British grandparents bringing another generation, their grandkids, to experience real winter and meet Santa over the Christmas holidays,” shares Pitkänen.
Asian tourists, who have been flocking to Finnish Lapland in recent years, still travel much more frequently to nearby Kittilä than Enontekiö.
During rest of the year the airport slows down and there are no scheduled flights. Only two regular employees work at the airport in the off-season.
What does the future look like for Enontekiö Airport?
“Charter flights keep the airport busy around Christmas, and the overall passenger count for last year was over 22 000, which is a pretty good for a small airport. The future looks stable for Enontekiö,” Pitkänen says.