It’s a Tuesday in April, and Helsinki Airport is bustling. There are people examining the departures board, finding some travel reading and queuing up for security control. A group of excited youngsters headed to London is having an early lunch, and a lady, who arrived from Moscow with her dog at daybreak, is spending the day at the airport before catching her connecting flight.
The airport is a fascinating place – and always open. Do people spend time there even when they have no intention of flying, just to eat out or have a cup of coffee?
A former frequent flyer inspecting the premises
A round of inquiries at Bistrot Helsinki Airport proves fruitful: Vantaa resident Tapani Luoma is neither about to embark on a journey nor waiting for anyone to arrive. He has come to the airport out of sheer curiosity.
“Once every six months I make a round in the airport to see if anything has changed. While I’m here, I grab something to eat and have a cup of coffee. This place has been under renovation for as long as I can remember. However, this time around I didn’t see any significant changes compared to the last time I was here,” he says.
Luoma has travelled a lot in his time. His destinations have included Mexico, Thailand and Egypt as well as the big cities in Europe – and the Canary Islands, which he has visited dozens of times. Lacking a suitable companion, Luoma has given up long-haul travelling.
Fresh pasta attracts neighbours
It was the decrease in his own travelling that made Tapani Luoma start his rounds at the airport some years ago.
“The airport is a place where you can hear foreign languages and see travellers. I must admit I do sometimes find myself thinking about how much fun it would be to be on my way somewhere. I would if I had company. Travelling alone is not that nice,” the retired stockbroker says.
Marjo Nissinen, shift manager at Bistrot Helsinki Airport, reveals that Luoma is by far not the only resident of neighbouring areas to visit the restaurant. According to Nissinen, there is no doubt what the main attraction of the restaurant is: fresh pasta and home-made bakery products.
“Some of these couples and families have already become regulars. They bring no luggage, they’re not in a hurry, and they tell us how they had to come back for our delicacies,” she says.
Next stop: haircut
At M Room, Aleksi is getting his hair cut.
“This must be my twentieth time here in the last couple of years. The reason is simple enough: I live one stop from here, so the train ride only takes three minutes,” Aleksi says.
Aleksi likes the international feel at the airport barber shop. During his previous visit, there was a German man sitting in the chair next to him, and the two ended up discussing football.
“The fact that this is my closest barber shop makes me really happy. Sometimes I also visit the Alepa grocery next door after I’m done.”
According to barber Maria Puranen, there are surprisingly many customers who are not at the airport to catch a flight.
“It’s easy to get here by public transportation, and we have shorter queues here than in our other locations in Vantaa. That explains a lot,” she says.
Day-care groups at the scenic terrace
The airport is a public space, where anyone can use the services in common areas. Ari Kumara, Vice President of Corporate Security at Finavia, can’t give an estimate of how many non-passengers visit the airport. Nonetheless, according to Kumara, the scenic terrace outside the terminal building is rather busy.
“On a beautiful day, there will be plenty of people plane spotting on the terrace. In the daytime, I’ve seen children from day-care centres visiting the deck,” Kumara says.
Kumara welcomes everyone to visit the scenic terrace and to make use of the services at the airport.
“You’ll find a wide array of services and a pleasant atmosphere,” Kumara advises.