Touring Helsinki Airport

Introduction
Andrew’s experience flying American to Helsinki
American Airlines Flagship Lounge Chicago
American Airlines Business Class Chicago to Helsinki
Hotel Kämp, Helsinki
Exploring Helsinki
Touring Helsinki Airport
Finnair Lounge Helsinki
American Airlines Business Class Helsinki to Chicago


There are many things Europeans have mastered — wine, cheese, the pronunciation of the word schedule/”shed-jewel,” afternoon tea, etc. Unfortunately airports isn’t typically on that list. When I think of my favorite airports, they’re all in Asia. Hell, my least favorite thing about flying OneWorld to Europe has to be the prospect of connecting through London Heathrow.

So by default Helsinki Airport is awesome simply because it’s not Heathrow. But beyond that it may just be one of the nicest and most user friendly airports in all of Europe. First of all, Helsinki Airport has among the shortest minimum connection times of any airport in the world. The minimum connection time for domestic to domestic connections is just 20 minutes, for domestic to international connections it’s just 30 minutes, for international to domestic connections it’s just 40 minutes, and for international to international connections it’s just 35 minutes. Compare that to London Heathrow, where the minimum connection time for international to international connections is somewhere around 90-105 minutes. Oh, and did I mention the airport has free (legitimately) high speed wifi throughout the terminal? There aren’t many airports in Europe where that’s the case.

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Anyway, even though our flight was only in the afternoon, American had arranged a tour of the airport for us, so we got there at around 10AM.

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Terminal exterior

The check-in hall was beautiful with high ceilings and a “traditional” departures board, which always gets me excited.

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Check-in area

Security queues were almost non-existent, and within a few minutes we were airside, where there was plenty of duty free shopping.

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Duty free shopping

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Terminal

The main part of the terminal was stunning, with hardwood floors and high ceilings.

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Terminal

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Terminal

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Terminal

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Terminal

Airside there’s a pretty innovative book swap. Doesn’t really interest me as such, though the cool thing about it is that the idea for it came from one of Finnair’s Quality Hunters. Some of you may recall that back in 2010 Finnair started an awesome “Quality Hunters” promotion (I actually thought about applying at the time), whereby they hired people to fly around the world on Finnair and share their feedback — the book swap was one of their ideas.

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Book swap

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Book swap

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Book swap

Oddly the terminal even has a casino…

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Casino

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Casino

The terminal also had a bunch of random art displays.

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Art display

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Art display

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Art display

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Art display

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Art display

There’s even a Santa themed store.

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Santa store!

Eventually we headed to the area where gates 32-40 are, which is also where most of the longhaul flights leave from, and also where the Finnair lounge is (which I’ll cover in the next installment). There’s also a Priority Pass lounge, which has to be one of the nicest anywhere. It’s the Almost @Home Lounge, and it had a pretty cool theme in my opinion.

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Almost @Home Lounge

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Almost @Home Lounge

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Almost @Home Lounge

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Almost @Home Lounge

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Almost @Home Lounge

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Walkway to gates 32-40

Japan Airlines had inaugurated 787 service to Helsinki just a couple of weeks prior, so they had a pretty cool promotional display up.

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Welcome JAL!

We also saw our 767 parked at the far end of the terminal.

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Our ride to Chicago

There aren’t many European airports I’d describe as pleasant, though Helsinki is one of them. In part it’s probably because they don’t have as much traffic as other major European airports, but it’s also clear they’re putting a lot of effort into the experience and take a lot of pride in it. And Finnair offers connections to dozens of places in Northern and Eastern Europe, so it’s much more practical to connect in Helsinki than London, for example.

Of course the catch — and my major frustration — is how limited service is from Helsinki to North America. Finnair flies from New York JFK year round and Toronto seasonally on an all-economy 757, while American only flies from Chicago to Helsinki seasonally as well. I do find Finnair’s strategy a bit bizarre — they fly to over a dozen cities in Asia, while they only fly to one city in North America year round. Helsinki as such isn’t a huge O&D market, but you’d think purely in terms of connecting traffic they could profitability operate some more North America service, be it to Chicago, Dallas, Miami, etc.

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Comments

  1. Yea, not my idea of an enjoyable flight!

    I suspect that a good amount of the traffic is of VFR nature—many Finns (& the Baltics) in Ontario.

  2. Finnair typically has excellent business class fares from NY to Asia via HEL. They may require a long layover and, on the return, an overnight (depending on destination), but they are very reasonable.

    The Almost Home lounge looks good, but I hate chairs that do not have arm rests.

  3. C’mon, lucky! ZRH and MUC are awesome airports, even if they are not the most important in Europe.

  4. All airports in Norway, including OSL, have free wifi. Same thing for Copenhagen and Stockholm, but you have to register an account first.
    I think it might be a Scandinavian thing?

  5. Quote: I do find Finnair’s strategy a bit bizarre — they fly to over a dozen cities in Asia, while they only fly to one city in North America year round.

    But most people originating in the US would prefer to fly west for Asia right? And the US Europe market is much more difficult, there are so many hubs in northern Europe, each with many connections to the US…

    So in a way it makes sense for them to focus on the Europe Asia market. Less competition, a large feeder network to get the pax to HEL for their flight to Asia, and like you said, an easy airport to transfer. When not living in one of the hub cities in Europe, there is no reason to not use AY over say, AFKL or LH/LX/OS.

  6. Not hard to be better than LDN or FRA when only about 15 milion passengers travel through helsinki, sorry lucky, i usually love your blog but this is just not in any way a good comparison!

  7. I have seen the Finnair plane in Miami, but must be a seasonal thing. Strange cause there are lots of Swedish and Danish tourist who travel down here.

    Kastrup (Copenhagen) and Arlanda(Stockholm) are great and efficient airports also, and well connected to the city via train/bus service.

    Personally I hate Heathrow, everything goes wrong in that place.

  8. One remark from my side, working for a Swedish company: people from the Nordic (and I simply include the Fins here) use to travel to Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos) for their winter vacation. Thats for example why Thai flies a 747 ARN-BKK which is constantly full between Jan-Mar. I guess thats why Finnair has many destinations in the East and not so much in the West.

    Also, me living in Western Europe, Id never fly East to HEL first only to fly 2h West again to the US.

  9. Finnair’s strategy makes actually quite a lot of sense when you think about it. HEL is just about on a perfect spot on a great circle route from Europe to Asia. Finnair connect lots of “secondary” cities in Europe to Asia with one(and fast) connection at HEL, and vice versa of course. Most of Finnair’s customers are actually from Asia, travelling to Europe.

  10. Hang on… Just reassure me you’re not an American who is mocking proper pronunciation of words… talk about American ignorance and arrogance!

  11. A little update: Finnair now use A330 to Toronto, still a seasonal summer service. This year they have 15 destinations in Asia, in coming winter their busy charter service to Phuket and Krabi in Thailand will change to scheduled service.

  12. “I do find Finnair’s strategy a bit bizarre — they fly to over a dozen cities in Asia, while they only fly to one city in North America year round.”

    Helsinki Airport has among the shortest minimum connection times of any airport in the world. The minimum connection time for domestic to domestic connections is just 20 minutes, for domestic to international connections it’s just 30 minutes, for international to domestic connections it’s just 40 minutes, and for international to international connections it’s just 35 minutes.

    I was in Helsinki last weekend and was really impressed by the airport, Finnair’s offering of product and route network. Walking around the airport and seeing people who / hearing voices from across Asia, Australia & New Zealand made me realise just how popular Finnair & connecting through Helsinki is. Finnair fly to Helsinki fom over 60 European destinations.

    Helsinki Airport has among the shortest minimum connection times of any airport in the world. The minimum connection time for domestic to domestic connections is just 20 minutes, for domestic to international connections it’s just 30 minutes, for international to domestic connections it’s just 40 minutes, and for international to international connections it’s just 35 minutes.

    Helsinki Airport is compact with all operations under one roof with no queuing at immigration for many different passport holders (not just EU) by using e-gates. They’re easy to use – using them I got the green light more quickly than I’ve ever done when using e-gates at various UK airports.

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