Finavia staff spent two weeks learning the Chinese service culture at Helsinki Airport's sister airport, Beijing Airport. The unique staff exchange programme is part of a cooperation agreement between Finavia and Chinese airport operator Capital Airports Holding Company (CAH).
Staff exchangees participated in practical tasks in several units at Beijing Airport and got to know the Chinese service culture and the needs of Chinese passengers from varying points of view.
Seeing day-to-day work and practices of Asia's biggest airport first-hand was a unique experience.
China is a digital forerunner
Noora Westerberg, Commercial Manager at Helsinki Airport, was excited to hear she was chosen as one of the exchangees. In Beijing, she was especially impressed by the way digital solutions, social media and mobile in general were utilized at airport operations.
"Mobile payment is one of the growing trends in China."
- Mobile payment is one of the growing trends in China. It's great that we also got the Alipay payment platform here at Helsinki Airport last autumn, Westerberg says.
- The most important social media channels in China are Weibo and WeChat. Helsinki Airport has a Weibo account and we’re working to get our WeChat account open soon, she continues.
Chinese appreciate personal service
Helsinki Airport's Service Advisor Teija Oksanen applied for exchange programme in order to learn more about Chinese culture and develop her professional skills further. At Beijing Airport she noticed, among others, the vast amount of signs and high quality of personal service.
- In our customer service we have focused a lot on how to serve our Chinese customers better, Oksanen says.
Beijing is close
Assistant Jaana Hirvonen works at Rovaniemi Airport, where the amount of Chinese passengers has increased drastically over the past years.
- More and more Chinese passengers are coming to Lapland. We want to serve our Chinese customers the best possible manner here in the north, Hirvonen explains when asked about reasons to apply for staff exchange.
One of the lessons learned that Finland really is the shortest route from Europe to Asia.
- I’ve always thought that China is incredibly far away, but the flight from Helsinki Airport to Beijing took only 7 hours, and it only takes about an hour to fly from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, she says.
"Santa Claus, northern lights and winter activities intrigue Chinese tourists."
Santa Claus, northern lights and winter activities intrigue Chinese tourists visiting Lapland.
- It’s the matter of honor for us that the Chinese are interested in Finnish nature and Finland in general, Hirvonen says.
Understanding Chinese passenger needs
Although probably the biggest benefit of the staff exchange has to do with increased understanding of Chinese culture and passenger behaviour, some concrete development steps have already been taken at Finavia airports.
- Our Chinese-speaking service guides have been received well so we decided to continue our work with them. We have also more Chinese-speaking guides in our own customer service, Westerberg says.
- In addition, I’ve heard from service development that the terminal will soon have hot water dispensers. We noticed this hot water thing also in Beijing: The Chinese always carry a hot water bottle with them, she adds.
Beijing Airport staff will, in turn, come to Finavia airports for staff exchange during 2017-2018.
Chinese are the fastest growing passenger group at Helsinki Airport.
Chinese are the fastest growing passenger group at Helsinki Airport and an important source of Finavia's future growth.
The amount of Chinese passengers has increased also at other airports, especially Lapland. According to Visit Finland, overnight stays of Chinese tourists in Finland has increased by an impressive 80 per cent over the past two years.