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Commentary: Helsinki Airport lives on international transfer travel

Article published
9.11.2020 at 12:50
Finavian toimitusjohtaja Kimmo Mäki.
Helsinki Airport’s position as a popular connecting airport ensures that Finns have exceptionally good flight connections around the world. It also has a significant impact on the Finnish economy, as every transfer passenger brings in income and thousands of jobs to our country, writes Kimmo Mäki, CEO of Finavia.

Last year, it was possible to travel to 200 different destinations from Finland. This is thanks to Helsinki Airport’s standing as an important hub for air traffic between Europe and Asia. Success interests airlines and this, in turn, creates more connections and competition. This also benefits the consumer.

Transfer travelling is an important competitive advantage for all airports as airlines consider airports with sufficient passenger potential to be the most attractive destinations. This is created by transfer travel. The comprehensive availability of routes and frequent and varied connections attract passengers.

In many countries, there are only one or two major airports that have achieved hub airport status. In Finland, that is Helsinki Airport. The success of Helsinki Airport also benefits Finavia's regional airports. Helsinki still has good connections around the world, and Helsinki Airport's revenues make it possible to maintain low-traffic network airports.

The employment impact of Helsinki Airport has a wide reach. Some 20,000 people work at Helsinki Airport. If the surrounding area of Vantaa's Aviapolis is included, this is the second-largest employment cluster in Finland. It produces about four per cent of Finland's GDP. In addition, Finavia's investment programme at Helsinki Airport employs more than 16,000 people throughout Finland during the construction period.

If the current travel restrictions continue, Helsinki Airport's position as a hub for Asian and European air traffic—achieved through hard work over a long period of time—will be jeopardized. The recovery of air traffic is already lagging behind the rest of Europe. We are lagging behind our European competitors, and soon the distance to recover may be too great. Airlines fly where passengers want to fly ─ and where they can fly.

In 2019, Helsinki Airport's 22 million passengers were made of evenly of Finns and foreign travellers. If the share of international transfer passengers decreases significantly, the remaining amount will not be enough to attract airlines, maintain a diverse range of routes and cover lost revenue.

What will Helsinki Airport look like in 2024?

According to current forecasts, recovery from the COVID-19 crisis would begin in three years. The flight network dramatically changed by COVID-19 may then look very different from what it was before the crisis.

The success of Helsinki Airport may now be at stake, as air traffic is based on long-term planning. If Finland is closed, airlines will find new routes and new transfer airport.

It is not self-evident that Finns will then be as connected to the world as we are used to.

Commentary: Why is the success of Helsinki Airport important for the rest of Finland?