Helsinki Airport’s new extension, Aukio, opened on 8 February 2019. Aukio’s architecture, design and atmosphere are said to be a testament to Finnish skills, providing passengers with a refreshing moment of rest and relaxation before their flight.
“Aukio can rightfully be described as a display window for our country, as millions of international passengers get their first taste of Finland at the airport,” says Helsinki Airport’s Director Joni Sundelin from Finavia. “Our focus throughout development has been on ensuring that passengers are left with an exceptionally positive impression of Finnish design, smoothness, nature and peace.”
The most important part of Aukio is the event plaza, where passengers are placed in the middle of Finnish nature. They get to experience the four seasons, as well as the soothing, refreshing effects of nature, through an immersive spatial experience that is a feast for all the senses.
“Locations where the event plaza’s 360-degree landscapes were filmed include Koli, Olos, Luosto, Yövesi in Saimaa and the Kalevankangas nature reserve in Mikkeli,” explains Heikki Koski, Chief Digital Officer, Finavia. “Passengers get to witness the breath-taking Aurora Borealis, vibrant autumn colours, a rippling stream and the whistling wind. The central element of the forest-inspired plaza is a LED screen that is 75 metres in width and two metres in height. This combination of special technologies is unique on a global scale.”
According to Koski, digitalisation is not the point, but the benefits it brings. For example, automation as a part of the new ultra-modern security control helps make the security check process smoother and faster, as well as ensuring sufficient capacity.
“In developing the security control, the focus has been on fostering a good employee experience, because content staff ensures a good customer experience,” says Koski. “We included security officers in the design process and made improvements to the ergonomics and equipment of the lines based on their feedback.”
Examples of new technology in the security control include an automated Smart Lane X-ray line, full body scanners and remote reading of X-ray images.
World-class shops and restaurants are an essential part of Aukio’s services. One of them is the Japanese Ajisen Ramen restaurant, which has 800 restaurants in Asia and only two in Europe, with one of the two now being at Helsinki Airport. The shopping selection includes high-quality Finnish brands, as well as international favourites, such as the Toyland toy store.
For the first time, a lounge open to all passengers for an entry fee will be opened at the airport. No business class ticket or airline membership card will be required to enter the Plaza Premium Lounge. 11 new commercial premises altogether will be opened at the airport.
A total of 33,400sqm of terminal facilities has opened, of which 25,000sqm are used by passengers. An additional 55,000sqm of apron will be added for aircraft parking and ground handling.
Sundelin says that tightening international competition is pushing Finavia to come up with ways to stand out among other large airports. “Finavia builds its investment programmes and plans its operations based on four basic pillars of experience. These are the feelings of leisureliness, rest, Finnishness and security. The customer experience is at the heart of our strategy.”
Aukio is part of Finavia’s €1 billion development programme. Its intention is to secure Helsinki’s position as a leading European airport for travel between Asia and Europe, while maintaining excellent flight connections between Finland and the rest of the world. The expansion will enable Helsinki Airport to serve 30 million passengers annually.