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Joni Sundelin, new Director of Helsinki Airport: “The value of business is built on basics”

Article published
19.9.2018 at 09:00
Joni Sundelin 3
Finland’s number one airport is now focusing on basics to create the best possible customer experience. According to its new director, there are no shortcuts to achieve that.

Joni Sundelin, who became the new Director of Helsinki Airport in April, can’t recall a time when he was not flying. In his childhood and youth, Sundelin flew with his family, and as an adult he has travelled the world for both business and leisure, spending holidays abroad with his wife and children.

Throughout Sundelin’s career, he has spent 100–150 days per year travelling on business.

“I knew nothing about the airport business before I joined Finavia six years ago. However, I understood travelling from the customer’s point of view. In business travel, efficiency is key; it’s essential that you can leave for the airport as late as possible and get back home quickly.”

“When you’re travelling with kids, a smooth airport experience is what matters most,” adds Sundelin, who previously occupied the role of Finavia’s Senior Vice President responsible for the regional airport network.

Smooth travelling comes first

Sundelin’s extensive travelling experience inspires him in developing Helsinki Airport. Improving customer experience for passengers and airlines alike is a top priority. Therefore, huge investments are made in digital service development, for instance.

Developments at the airport include more digital features to help passengers check in, make their way through security control and board the plane – with digital screens guiding them throughout the process.

“It is also important to serve various growing customer groups, such as the Chinese. We have Chinese-speaking personnel and Chinese-language signposts, and we are advancing the implementation of mobile payment methods favoured by Chinese passengers. Another large, growing group involves Japanese passengers. Still, the majority of passengers – up to 70 per cent – are European.”

According to the director, very simple things can be part of a greater shift. For example, he decided to move a promotional stand from a narrow spot in Terminal 2, where it had stood for years, because it crammed the space.

“It’s not magic tricks that I’m trying to do. I’d rather focus on the essentials. The foundation for refining the customer experience and commercial services is laid by taking good care of the basics. That allows for the creation of value for business,” he says.

Fixing basic stuff

Helsinki Airport is in a state of major change, as the 1 billion euro development programme is being carried out. In 2017, almost 19 million passengers travelled through the airport. In a couple of years, when the development programme is completed, the airport should be able to take care of up to 30 million passengers per year.

Development work will create more space, but the continuous growth of air traffic business will nonetheless add pressure.

“I believe in process thinking, where data, for example, is used to figure out traffic peaks at the airport and to find a solution for serving our customers even better. We are equally thorough in finding the reason behind every delayed departure, for example. The different parts of the process are analysed and improved. That’s pretty basic stuff,” he states.

Excited about the growing industry

Sundelin has enjoyed working at Finavia, and he feels comfortable in his new role. What he likes in particular is the company’s capacity for renewal. In an industry that is growing fast, a passion for development is necessary.

“We have taken enormous leaps within the last few years: for example, our revenue has grown, and our operating profit has doubled in six years. We have transformed into a customer-oriented business, and our commercial development has been superb. Moreover, it looks like we will continue to grow.”

The director of Finland’s number one airport does not lament the fact that for him, the airport will continue to signify work even though for others, it means holiday and freedom.

“Although flying to me has lost its exotic appeal, holiday trips feel totally different from travelling on business. If they didn’t, I would probably skip flying on holidays,” shares Sundelin.

Read about Helsinki Airport’s development programme

People & Aviation