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Postcard from Finland
Sami Simola, head of apron services and FBO manager for Finavia in Finland, on the current expansion at Helsinki Airport and working for a state-owned operator
Left: Helsinki Airport, Finland
What is Finavia?
Finavia Corporation is a state-owned company that operates Helsinki Airport and 20 other airports in Finland, and provides all of the air traffic services throughout the country. The Finavia Business Flight Center is also part of the Finavia Corporation, and is responsible for operating the FBO terminal at the southern part of Helsinki Airport.
What are the benefits of being state-owned?
I think a major benefit is that the company has a solid economic base for its operations and development. Finavia has airports in all major cities and in the Lapland area, so it is easy to help our customers and provide a wide range of services. We also have a subsidiary providing ground-handling services in all locations. There are couple of city-owned airports in Finland, but they have no scheduled or commercial operations.
What are the biggest challenges facing Finavia currently?
The biggest challenge at the moment is to maintain our service levels at the highest standard while at the same time doubling our main terminal capacity in Helsinki [the terminals are being expanded as part of a US$990m investment, to be completed by 2020].
Is Helsinki still the busiest airport?
Yes, Helsinki is the busiest airport in Finland. It has also won awards and is regarded as the best Nordic airport. We are constantly improving our services at the main terminal and the business flight terminal. In 2015, we actually reached a new record here in terms of passenger numbers – over 16 million – and we are expecting more growth in 2016. The number of customers at the business flight terminal has also been growing steadily.
How will business aviation benefit from the improvements at Helsinki?
As we operate from our own business terminal, the main terminal improvements and expansions will have only minor effects on business flights. Of course, new terminal services and destinations will give the business flights some extra value. Good connections are an advantage for crew swaps and technical stops.
Also, some of our European customers use the Business Flight Center as a hub between Europe and Asia. We offer smooth VIP services in connecting business jets and commercial airliners in Helsinki.
What is Finavia’s approach to business aviation? Is it a priority?
Finavia sees business aviation as a big part of the service combination at Helsinki Airport. Growing business equals good things for both Finavia and the whole country. Import and export business is very important for Finland, so business flights are a key focus of the Finavia management team. The only negative thing of being state-owned is that we cannot use, for example, IT systems developed especially for FBOs, because we must use the systems that Finavia Corporation has, although it’s not really a big problem.
Do you think there will every be another FBO besides Helsinki?
Helsinki is actually the only FBO in Finland. In the Finnish airport network, there are a only couple of ground handling companies that take care of the business flights elsewhere, but as Helsinki is the financial and administrative capital of Finland, over 90% of the business aviation takes place here. There isn’t really a need for a FBO anywhere else.
What, in your opinion, makes a good, effective FBO?
We believe that flexible and high quality service 24/7 is what all FBO customers want. A good FBO is quick with responses and reliable. To keep our service as efficient as possible, we have created a large network of third-party providers.
For the passengers, a good FBO must provide smooth and fast connections between the aircraft and the landside transportation. In Helsinki, the walk can be as short as 50 meters…
Of course, after we have successfully escorted the passengers on their way, we focus on the flight crew, with nice lounges and relaxation rooms, which are also available for the passengers in case of a delay.
Free drinks and wi-fi are important, and we even have tablets to loan if someone doesn’t have their own electronic device. We believe that if the crew is happy, the passengers will be too.
How do you see the next five years for Finavia?
Within the next five years, the expansion at Helsinki will be finalized and the number of passengers will be more than 20 million. The Business Flight Center will also be regarded as the number one FBO for technical stops between Asia and rest of the world.
More info at www.finavia.fi