The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on air traffic in Finland. In March 2020, Helsinki Airport’s passenger numbers were down 57.2% compared with the same period last year.
“Now in April, the airport serves only about 1,000 passengers per day, and the number keeps falling,” explains Ulla Lettijeff, Director, Helsinki Airport, and SVP Finavia Corporation. “On a normal day, an average of 57,000 passengers would pass through Helsinki Airport. Today, according to the current estimate, the impact of the decrease in air traffic on Finavia’s turnover will be over €100 million. We estimate that this year’s total number of passengers may be a third lower than last year. This is a much more dramatic drop than what air traffic has ever experienced before.”
Finavia has responded by implementing myriad disruption/crisis management initiatives at Helsinki Airport. On 19 March, it closed the check-in and baggage claim operations, as well as other services in Terminal 1, with all flights now operated through Terminal 2.
“We decided to centralise all services into Terminal 2 to support airport operators to run their businesses as effectively as possible and to ensure smooth and safe travelling for our passengers,” says Lettijeff.
Meanwhile, Runway 3 was closed to air traffic for the time being on 1 April. There are three runways at Helsinki Airport, and Lettijeff explains that it’s possible to manage with two runways as there are only a small number of take-offs and landings. “This not only supports our maintenance department and the air navigation company in effectiveness, but also offers stands on Runway 3 for grounded aircraft. To overcome this challenging situation together with the airport community, we have provided our tenants and partners with significant relief.”
Ensuring coherent communications in a quickly-changing environment
Finavia has tight cooperation and good relations with the authorities, supporting them in every way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “We have daily meetings with them on many organisational levels to ensure coherent communications and to evaluate what kind of changes to make,” Lettijeff explains.
All information is handled and evaluated by Finavia’s Operational Centre and the operational status review and notifications are delivered via a mobile app, which is accessible to all airport staff. “This has been a tremendous help to implement changes in a quickly-changing environment,” Lettijeff notes.
Helsinki Airport has also taken many measures to make passenger paths less crowded and reduce the risk of infection, such as intensifying cleaning and distributing hand sanitizer at customer service points. Meanwhile, the instructions given by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) are being distributed to passengers and airport staff.
Looking ahead, Lettijeff adds that in Finland, the travelling restrictions will be valid until 13 May 2020. “We hope that the corona pandemic will be over soon, and the air traffic industry will recover step by step towards the summer and autumn. We continue the ongoing Helsinki Airport Development Programme to be able to offer smooth travelling between Europe and Asia and to guarantee Finland’s accessibility and competitiveness also in the future.”