Helsinki airport: Developing the travelling experience through technology
From arrival, through to check-in, shopping and departure gates, Helsinki Airport wants to make travelling even smoother. Vice President Heikki Koski describes how with the help of the latest technologies, the airport can understand passenger flow better and introduce new services to passengers to help them navigate and find services in its terminals.
Helsinki Airport is a forward-thinking, modern hub which is constantly improving its passenger experience. Modern innovations and new technologies are being used to strengthen its position as one of Europe’s most innovative airports. Last summer, Finavia announced that it was implementing a new technological solution to its operations at Helsinki Airport. Our goals are clear: improving passenger flow throughout the whole passenger path, and providing new innovative digital services to our passengers.
Spotting bottlenecks with passenger flow tracking
Walkbase, a Finnish company specialising in retail analytics and indoor WiFi positioning systems, has developed a new tool together with Finavia for managing the flow of people through the busy airport.
The technology will help us provide a smoother travelling experience. It enables passengers to receive various types of information about their flight direct to their mobile phones. This includes their whereabouts at the airport, shops, restaurants and services nearby, time remaining for shopping and dining before boarding, and time needed to make it to the boarding gate.
In addition, it allows Finavia to spot bottlenecks in the passenger path and develop the customer experience on that basis by optimising terminal operations. The goal is to make the whole passenger path as smooth as possible all the way from parking to check-in, security check, shopping, boarding and take-off.
At the heart of applying this technology to Helsinki Airport is our aim of offering our passengers easy to use, modern and truly useful ways of making their travel experience easy and effortless. We are very proud to be at the vanguard of utilising this kind of new technology on a large scale.
All of the development has been based on maintaining very strict privacy standards at the core of the product. Needless to say, no personal information about the user or owner of the device can be seen or stored.
A positive first experience, with more to come
Already, the deployment of this technological platform during the latter half of 2014 has been encouraging. The first uses have given Helsinki Airport a more accurate understanding of passenger flow and flow behaviour in real-time, which helps optimise operations. The passengers benefit, as the travelling becomes smoother and the airport staff can react to bottlenecks in more proactive ways.
The technology provides even more possibilities for Helsinki Airport passengers and the plan is to actively develop new digital services. Passengers can already receive information on flight status, boarding gate changes or delays using Helsinki Airport’s mobile application. Soon it will be possible to introduce more useful services, such as positioning and navigation within the terminal, guiding transferring passengers towards their connecting flights or helping customers to understand the time they have left to spend using the airport’s services before going to the departure gate.
This new innovation allows Helsinki Airport to improve its reputation as a forward thinking hub, which embeds seamless innovation into the travel experiences.
Utilising technological innovations everywhere
Finland is world famous for its technological leadership and know-how. Likewise, Finavia has achieved a leading role within its industry in continuously using and developing services based on new technologies.
In 2012, Helsinki Airport was the first Nordic airport to implement Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) to its operations, aiming to improve the information exchange in the turnaround and pre-departure sequencing processes of aircraft. For Finavia, A-CDM is particularly important because of the occasionally challenging winter weather conditions in Finland.
Passenger satisfaction is essential to our service. For example, we provide consistent, unlimited WiFi with no registration. The fact that the connection actually works with high quality is, to us, a significant competitive advantage compared to many other airports.
Our award winning mobile app provides airport maps and services into the palm of the passenger, and already now gives them a rough location at the airport. It also smooths travelling by real-time flight information and an up-to-date estimation of security check waiting times.
Passengers holding a biometric passport can use our 15 automated border control gates, which hold the longest row of such gates in Europe. In addition, we have increased the amount of bag drop and check-in kiosks, which increases the terminal capacity and thus makes departing more flexible for passengers. We do not want to go all the way to automation, but we think it is important to provide different possibilities for different kind of passengers.
One of our newest technological services for our passengers is the possibility of pre-booking a car parking space in advance from the airport through Finavia’s website. We have also been awarded for being the best airport in its use of social media. A remarkable amount of our customer feedback, for example, is now handled through social media channels.
Increase of digital services in 2015
Digital services are being used more and more at Helsinki Airport, and new services are scheduled for introduction in 2015, with the aim of further speeding up security checks and boarding.
Joining the facilities in 2015 is a ticket reading device for security checks, which will be piloted from the beginning of the year. The security check procedure will change, with passengers having their tickets read already at a gate before they enter the security area. This will eliminate any need to dig for tickets once the passengers reach the security checkpoint.
Boarding too, will be faster, thanks to an electronic boarding check to be introduced in early 2015. This uses an electronic device for checking boarding passes, comparable to security checkpoint ticket readers. Passengers just show their passes to the reader device instead of handing them to the gate agent. Elimination of the manual element allows the gate personnel to focus better on taking care of passengers who need assistance and personal service, without delays in boarding.
Development work never stops
Constant advances in technology enable an increasing number of services aimed at enhancing the passenger experience. In addition to new services, communication and guidance can also be made more relevant for passengers using interactive and dynamic information.
All the above examples demonstrate the motivation we have for continuously improving our passengers’ and airline customers’ airport experience. And we must not forget, that although the world is getting more and more digital, there is a large share of people that will prefer the traditional methods of service. All our development efforts keep this in mind – to be able to serve all customers choosing Helsinki Airport with the same commitment to an excellent customer experience.
We are curious and fearless in testing and utilising innovative new services, in order to stay ahead in the race for outstanding passenger experience.
Heikki Koski is Vice President of Helsinki Airport, operated by Finavia. He is responsible for passenger experience and processes, including security, passenger flow, customer service, parking and advertising.