Sami Simola is a seasoned airport professional with a skill set to match his extensive experience. As Finavia’s Head of Apron Services, he manages all apron operations at Helsinki Airport: aircraft and ground handling traffic must sync up safely.
Responsible for apron traffic control, Simola’s unit helps and guides the people working on the apron, ensuring that traffic and other operations flow smoothly – around the clock, every day of the year.
“It’s also my job to organise trainings for the employees of companies operating at the airport, so they can be granted permits to drive and work on the apron independently. Moreover, I manage Helsinki Airport’s Business Flight Center, developing its service concept and organising ground handling for business and private jets and aviators,” Simola says.
The airport called back the ice hockey CEO
Simola first started working at Helsinki Airport over 20 years ago. He has held various jobs and roles at the airport, and he has also worked elsewhere between those stints.
“I studied tourism business and have a degree in hospitality management. As a student I thought I’d aim at becoming a hotel director. However, after my graduation in 1998, a friend tipped me off about seasonal work at Helsinki Airport, and I got a job de-icing planes. After that, I’ve worked in business flight catering services, served customers in the Business Flight Center and driven a Follow Me vehicle guiding aircraft as a Marshaller,” enumerates Simola.
Between jobs, Simola worked as the CEO of an ice hockey team in Vantaa for seven years, but the airport drew him back in. Simola returned to Helsinki Airport as the supervisor of the Marshaller team, and eventually ended up running the Business Flight Center as well. He has been in his current role for eight years.
“Having extensive experience in different roles at the airport helps me succeed in my work. As Head of Apron Services, I’m frequently asked all sorts of questions, and thanks to my wide job rotation, I’m often able to help. For example, I’ve driven nearly all the vehicles types that are used on the apron, such as the apron bus, the de-icing vehicle and the high loader. I keep my qualifications up-to-date and permits valid so I can help apron personnel in practical matters and fill in for them if necessary,” Simola says.
Service is successful when you can hardly tell it’s there
Simola sees his work as primarily providing service to customers. Therefore, he has found his former education in tourism business useful. Especially when it comes to the Business Flight Center, customers can be very demanding and have quite unusual needs. These can involve requests for private jets to be supplied with, for example, wine bottles worth thousands of euros.
“What matters to us most is that customers, in other words passengers and airlines, are happy. We want passengers to return to Helsinki Airport. However, passengers are not supposed to notice our work: we’ve succeeded when they don’t even realise that they’ve proceeded through the terminal. We cooperate with private aircraft crews and chauffeur and concierge services, so VIP passengers never have to worry about the practicalities of their trip,” Simola explains.
“The best thing about this job is its versatility. I get to be involved in lots of projects, and I’m never bored. As Helsinki Airport develops, my job changes, and I’m faced with new challenges all the time,” Simola says.