2019 is “a HEL of a year” for Helsinki Airport, and it’s not just due to growing passenger numbers and new flight connections. Finavia’s large-scale development programme is at full speed: Aside from the recently opened Aukio central plaza, the expansions of Terminal 1, border check area as well as the new west wing will all be completed this year. Terminal 2 expansion work has also kicked off, which means large-scale renovation works in front of the airport.
Construction sites also affect passenger flows, though customer convenience is a top priority. Finavia and its partners try to carefully analyse the effects of the construction on things such as customer paths, lighting or positioning of information screens and water taps.
“Helsinki Airport development programme is like a gigantic puzzle, with larger and smaller moving parts. Safety, customer experience and airport functions are always top priorities when we plan and schedule construction work,” emphasises Martti Nurminen, Project Manager in the Helsinki Airport development programme.
Customer service comes first
Despite careful preparation, renovations often pose a challenge to daily airport functions and vice-versa. It is clear to everyone that smooth airport operations always come first, and renovations second.
“Serving airport customers is of course the most important thing, which means we cannot always advance the construction work as quickly as we otherwise would. Renovations are scheduled so that the commercial services can move to new facilities as smoothly as possible,” Nurminen says.
For instance, the shops operating at Helsinki Airport move according to the following sequence: First, an area is taken down to set up a construction site. New facilities are then built one at a time. As the new premises are ready, shops move into them one after another. Demolition work of the old facilities is also phased so that the construction area is compact and causes as little disturbance as possible.
“For passengers, the renovations appear as building site fences and some narrowed routes. Construction sounds can be heard every now and then. In principle, all noisy work is forbidden during rush hours at the terminals,” says Timo Järvelä, Vice President, Passenger Experience and Processes at Finavia.
Customers come first
So far, most of the expansion work at Helsinki Airport has been done away from the busiest passenger routes. Only recently has the construction work moved to areas that most affect passengers: the Terminal 2 expansion, for instance, means big changes to parking and passenger movement in front of the terminal. The new grand entrance of Helsinki Airport, with departure and arrival lobbies, will be completed in two to three years.
“A lot is actually done already before the construction begins, but passengers mostly aren’t aware of it. Now, the changes are becoming apparent especially to departing customers as they arrive at the airport,” Järvelä says.
Finavia closely tracks customer satisfaction and collects feedback with passenger surveys as well as frequent mystery shopping evaluations.
“The test traveller tries our different routes to the airport and at the terminal, tests services and takes notes. This way we get additional information about the effects of the renovations, and we can quickly react to problems,” Järvelä shares.
Finavia recognises that passengers will have to adapt to many changes in 2019. That’s why the airport operator puts a lot of effort in communicating about the changes and has hired 15 new employees to guide passengers around the airport.