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Introducing Kimmo Mäki, Finavia's new CEO: “For me, the airport has always signified freedom”

Article published
09.05.2018 kl 09:00
People & Aviation
Kimmo Mäki, who took over as Finavia’s CEO at the beginning of January, believes good leadership happens as close to employees as possible.

When Kimmo Mäki still lived in his native town of Kokkola, it was Kokkola-Pietarsaari Airport that represented a gateway to the world. The airport, which was called Kruunupyy Airport back then, is located 19 kilometres from Kokkola.

“For me, the airport has always stood for freedom. Living in small, remote Finland has never limited the opportunity to be part of the world at large.”

Today, Mäki lives in an eastern suburb of Helsinki, and Helsinki Airport, which is now his gateway to the world, is equally close. In fact, the airport has become even more dear to Mäki since he was appointed CEO of Finavia in January.

“The airport is an environment where people experience strong emotions, whether they are arriving or departing. That makes it such a fascinating place,” the CEO describes.

Acquainting with the business and the people

As Finavia’s CEO, Mäki leads and develops the company’s operations to ensure a profitable business, satisfied passengers and smooth operations for airline customers. He also cooperates with Finavia’s stakeholders.

“Moreover, I lead the organisation and help people perform well. That requires getting to know employees and their working environment.”

The CEO’s office is located in the WTC building close to Terminal 2. Mäki says he drops by at the airport several times a week to see how things work.

“I want to see things for myself and discuss with the people whose work is related to them, so I can get an overview of the situation. If a person is wearing a shirt with our logo, I always make an effort to ask how they are doing. You learn best from the people who do the actual work.”

Fast growth fuels development

The 43-year-old Master of Science (Technology) has seen air travel and airports in a new light after making the transition from CEO of the Port of Helsinki to Finavia.

“No matter which airport I’ve visited, I’ve paid attention to how passengers feel there. How things work and how we could implement the best practices.”

At Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Mäki noticed how spacious and functional the airport was. With a volume of 68.4 million passengers last year, Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in the world. The high number of passengers has enabled large investments.

The number of passengers is growing in Finland as well, and this year Helsinki Airport is likely to hit a record of 20 million passengers.

Finavia’s 900 million-euro investment programme began in 2014, aiming at strengthening the competitive position of Finland’s primary airport in relation to international competitors.

“This is a well-managed, well-organised company with an excellent track record. The growing number of passengers brings about challenges, but it also gives us an opportunity to develop our operations. We must work hard for it, but this is a great starting point.”

Visiting all Finnish airports

During the first months of 2018, Mäki has made business trips to the network airports in Rovaniemi, Kittilä, Kuusamo, Vaasa, Kokkola and Kuopio. His goal is to visit all Finavia airports before the end of the year, so there will be many more trips across Finland. Finavia operates 21 airports.

“Visiting network airports has helped me to understand how complex our airport network is. Each airport holds a unique position and carries significance in its area, but they all share the objective of operating as safely as possible and investing in customer service.”

Nonetheless, Mäki has also been able to travel with his family after starting in his new position. Early this year he flew to Lapland to spend a weekend with his wife and five-year-old daughter.

Showing his daughter around Helsinki Airport, Mäki told her about how Scandinavian culture and Finnishness are highlighted there through design.

“My daughter was interested in what she saw and gazed at the airplanes, eyes wide,” Mäki remembers.

Kimmo Mäki will be Finavia’s new CEO