This is the final instalment of Finavia’s 10 part series on the history of Finnish aviation.
At the start of the 2000s, the international aviation field was shaken by the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States. Members of the islamist terror group Al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes, two of which flew into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York. Altogether almost 4,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The events and subsequent terror attacks or attempted terror attacks had consequences also on Finnish air travel as security measures at airports and in the international aviation field tightened.
For instance, strict limits on liquids in cabin luggage were implemented, and passenger access to aircrafts’ cockpit became strictly regulated.
Air travel market goes online
However, the 2000s were still a time of growth for Finnish air travel. Between 2000 and 2009 the passenger number at Finnish airports rose from 13.8 million to 16.2 million. Besides Finns travelling abroad more, tourism to Finland also grew: especially Asian travellers started to flock to Northern destinations like the Finnish Lapland.
One reason behind the growth was the deregulation of the airline industry, which had started already in the 1990s. In the 2000s, several low-cost airlines started operating in Finland, including KLM subsidiary Buzz Air, Flying Finn, SAS-owned Blue1, Finnair’s FlyNordic and Irish Ryan Air.
– Cheap air fares made flying truly accessible for almost all Finns. Flying became a travel mode even for ”backpackers”, says Valeri Saltikoff from Finnish Aviation Museum.
At the same time, the travel market moved online. Instead of using travel agents people started to make their own travel plans and buy their own flights. New flight routes to and from Finland were opened and travel to far-away destinations, like Thailand, became the new norm.
– However, traditional travel destinations, such as Spain and Greece, still stayed popular among Finns, Saltikoff says.
Helsinki Airport becomes an international hub
The 2000s were also a time of strong development for Helsinki Airport. Passenger numbers rose to 10 million already in 2000, and continued to grow throughout the decade, excluding a slump after the 2008 financial crisis.
Finavia developed the airport and its digital services to accommodate the growing number of passengers. The first self-service check-in kiosks were introduced in early 2000s, the third runway opened in 2003. The facilities for long-haul passengers were expanded in 2004 and 2009, when the terminal space grew by 30%.
At the end of the decade Helsinki Airport had become an international hub and an important gateway between Europe and Asia.
Today, the largest expansion programme in the history is taking place at Helsinki Airport. The airport is preparing to serve 30 million passengers a year, with for example 45% increase in terminal area.