Lessons from the Far East

Published
7.3.2017 - 17:40
How does a Chinese passenger navigate and interact in an airport? To find out, a group of Finavia staff travelled to Asia’s largest airport in Beijing.

A dynamic bunch of five, appointed through a Finavia-wide application process, was tasked with getting familiar with the operations of Beijing Capital International Airport and Chinese service culture. The two-week trip at the end of October 2016 sparked many practical ideas for developing Finavia’s own airports. The number of Chinese tourists travelling through Finland continues to grow, requiring more attention to this customer segment’s special needs and wishes. 

Water best warm, say the Chinese           

The Chinese believe that cold water is bad for your health, and that warm water is absorbed better, keeping the body warm. Beijing Airport’s warm water machines are in great demand, and the water enjoyed with food is also preferred warm.  

Finavia is currently reviewing practical options for providing Chinese passengers with warm water at Helsinki Airport together with local service providers.

No wallets please, we prefer smartphones

Cash or payment cards commonly used in Finland might not be accepted in China — often the only option is to use mobile payment. The most popular service is AliPay.

Helsinki Airport was one of the first European airports to make AliPay available for customers in December 2016. The two other trailblazers are Munich and Frankfurt airports. AliPay is also accepted on Finnair flights, as well as in many shops, restaurants and hotels frequented by Chinese guests in Rovaniemi.

A picture is worth… 

Beijing Capital International Airport consists of three colossal terminals, with trains running between two of them. Although tens of millions more passengers travel through the airport compared with its Finnish counterparts, its operations are surprisingly smooth, no small thanks to the signage visible everywhere.

Few Chinese passengers speak English, which highlights the demand for Chinese signage in Finland. Informative icons and images are also needed: Many would like to see a picture of the dish to ease the selection process at a restaurant, for example.

Few Chinese passengers speak English, which highlights the demand for Chinese signage in Finland.

It’s crucial to take advantage of digital channels as many Chinese passengers are active online. Finavia invests in developing digital interfaces available on websites and airport terminals as well as in expanding its presence on Chinese social media channels.

Purchase planning @WeChat

Chinese passengers are brand- and quality-aware consumers who, in addition to international brands, value Chinese ones highly. The WeChat app is the most popular channel for finding information on products and services, and it’s also used for bookings and purchases. Locations frequently visited by Chinese tourists would benefit greatly from making service packages available through this app, and Finavia is planning to launch Helsinki Airport’s WeChat account later this year.

On your best behaviour

The Chinese are accustomed to good and personalised service delivered in their own language. Beijing Airport is abuzz with customer service staff, and the flight crew also assist with check-in. Senior citizens, the physically impaired, and families travelling with children are taken into consideration with dedicated service points, marked seats, and made to measure service packages.

Chinese-speaking staff already assist visitors at Finavia airports, and many more are about to undergo service training designed to teach the Chinese language, culture, and tricks for customer encounters. Composed, calm behaviour and long conversations are to the Chinese liking, whereas pointing a finger at the customer and sarcasm are to be avoided. Many of those learning basic Chinese are taken aback by the lack of words for “yes” and “no” in the language.

Colleagues from Beijing Airport, which enjoys a sister airport relationship with Helsinki Airport, will be visiting Finland in return to learn about snow-how, environmental responsibility, and digital solutions, among other topics. They are also keen to experience the aces up our sleeve: clean nature, the Northern Lights, and Santa Claus.

Finavia staff learning at Asia's largest airport 

The field trip to Beijing was part of the staff exchange programme organised by Finavia as well as an investment in the growing Chinese passenger segment and Finland’s ability to compete in Asian markets. In January 2016, Helsinki Airport signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Sister Airport Relationship with Beijing Capital International Airport.

This article is part of Finavia’s annual report 2016. Click here to view the full annual report.