Posts from the ‘Helsinki-Vantaa (HEL)’ Category
June 14th, 2012
Who would have thought that an airport, of all places, would set out to create this little corner of sanctuary where travellers, from all over the world, could drop by and leave with something possibly inspirational?
But what is even more incomprehensible is how its creation was sparked by ideas and suggestions from members of an online community, jointly created by Finnair and Helsinki Airport through an initiative named Quality Hunters.
A little history: How it became…
Code-named #qhbookswap, a Twitter hashtag denoting the “Quality Hunters Book Swap” idea, it was one of the many ideas devised through countless discussions with the Quality Hunters community, and all of which were put through a voting session opened to all on both Facebook and Twitter.
Many voted for this idea, which eventually got shortlisted (along with a few others) and chosen by Helsinki Airport as a project to promote passenger experience innovation (presently, this is not the only one).
Earlier this year, work began on making the #qhbookswap a reality — and, once again, the Quality Hunters community was invited to submit their ideas, comments and arguments in its creation. This time, the combination of Twitter and Pinterest were used to facilitate the somewhat-tedious task.
Opening day finally arrives
At 10am on June 13, 2012, the Helsinki Airport Book Swap was officially open to all passengers on air-side. Located on the second floor, next to Gate 27 in Terminal 2, it’s a little space which will house a broad range of books made only possible by random visitors.
I was actually hoping to get a glimpse of the Book Swap while visiting Helsinki in late-May, but had just missed it by two weeks! Fortunately, my friend John Walton, of AusBT fame, was there to take in the festivities on my behalf.
As the name suggests, it’s all about swapping books. Passengers visiting the establishment simply needs to leave a book that they are happy to part with, and pick a replacement from the many available in and around the Book Swap.
A set of “golden rules” have been created for the Book Swap, and here it is — in a nice, big frame:
There’s also a label that goes on the inside cover of any book that makes residence at the Book Swap at any point. It identifies a book as having been, plus encouraging its new owner/s to share with everyone where it has been, and with whom:
The passage of time should make the Book Swap an interesting point-of-interest for any passenger passing through Helsinki Airport to visit again and again, given how its library of books is never the same at any one time.
The Quality Hunters Experience
Before UXmilk became part of this world, yours truly was one of the members actively involved with the Quality Hunters initiative, an experience which will forever be etched in the back of my mind.
(You can read up more about the Quality Hunters project here.)
Much was discussed on an almost-daily basis, typically on a broad range of topics relating to the different elements of air travel, an area which I now write about and offer commentary on. But the focus was always on identifying possible innovative elements from current real-life examples, all performed through the open channel of Twitter.
Although the Quality Hunters project was completed late last year, the initiative has remained an ongoing one. The same online community, which participated in the project, has since become self-sustaining, specifically where members are now conversing amongst themselves, as well as with other users that share a similar interest. But what’s amazing is how the virtual community is still very much there, although engagement may not be as frequent as it were before.
My best wishes to the Helsinki Airport Book Swap, and hoping that I will be able to pay a visit in the not-too-distant future, and doing my part in swapping-out a fun and interesting read of my own.
May 8th, 2012
The experience of flying can be absolutely fun for some, while others will dread it with a passion!
Scandinavian-based airline, Finnair, with its continual efforts to improve the overall passenger experience, have led to the creation of ‘Service Angels’ — a group of young and passionate individuals, hand-picked from a list of hundreds of applicants, assigned with the grand (but seemingly simple) task of assisting passengers in need.
A brief description of what’s involved, straight from the Finnair Blog, by Ilmari Salminen, one of the original Service Angels:
“A typical day of the angels included guiding passengers to the right places, helping with the check-in machines, advising where to find different places at the airport, guiding passengers with connecting flights efficiently to their next flight, handing out sweets to cheer people up and, in special cases, ice cream coupons and compensation vouchers, if everything had not gone perfectly sometimes, namely, due to delays or other issues.”
“Right, it’s all about helping those needy passengers. Sounds simple enough.”
Considering how there were only twelve service angels at Helsinki Airport (Helsinki-Vantaa, or HEL) at the beginning of summer last year, these still-green-but-ready-to-serve airport guides were to cover the airport terminals — both air- and land-side — along with all the necessities to make it all work:
“With scooters, the angels were nearly flying through the airport, where the distance from one end to the other is two kilometres. Naturally, their equipment included an angel mobile and a crystal ball for telling the future, that is, a tablet PC, which enabled them to search for information as well as passengers’ email reservation confirmations. The Angel mobile rang often, as urgent errands arose, including, for example, looking for certain people on the plane or taking boarding passes to departure gates.”
Not even some of the best airports around, like HKIA (Hong Kong) or Singapore’s Changi Airport, come close in offering a similar level of personal attention and care. Granted that HKG and SIN are very well-equipped, and have selected people employed to deal with certain problems and issues. Yet, that’s very different to the situation which Finnair is addressing with head-on.
Oh, did I mention that the Service Angels help everyone — and not just those travelling on Finnair metal?
In the very beginning, patrons at Helsinki Airport were unaccustomed to their presence:
“The angels could feel the first gazes of people at the airport when the escalators finally reached the top. These gazes revealed that the vision was out of the ordinary: who were these youngsters? Tourists? Freaks dressed as Finnair fans? Or did they really work in this place?”
But it didn’t take long for the Angels’ presence to become truly appreciated, and not just by those in need:
“Passengers liked the title Service Angel and thought it was different. Often, the angels were asked to help by calling out “Hey angel, can you help us”, or someone asked them to be their own personal angel, with a twinkle in their eye.”
For each of the Service Angels, every day was a unique experience. This is what true customer service is all about, especially in an environment like Helsinki-Vantaa, which is also Finnair’s home base and hub, where countless dynamics fuel all kinds of unimaginable possibilities:
“Passengers learned fairly quickly that the young guides were available. And it was not particularly exceptional that one angel received many questions and requests for help at the same time from many different directions. Sometimes it was difficult to divide oneself into so many parts, but generally, by dealing with the passengers’ problems one at a time, these situations could be handled well.”
I would’ve found it most inspiring to simply observe just how it all works out on the different days, and in the various scenarios presented.
Spanning their wings in Berlin and Düsseldorf
After that three-month stint in Helsinki-Vantaa last year, Finnair has casted its Service Angels to Deutschland where they served at Berlin-Tegel (during the first two weeks of April) and Düsseldorf airports (throughout the month of May).
Because both Berlin-Tegel and Düsseldorf are not exactly Finnair territory (back in Finland, Finnair obviously had an agreement with Helsinki-Vantaa to make this work, as the exercise covered the entire airport), the Angels in Germany needed to make do with a much smaller area to work with, plus the limited time made available to them on a daily basis.
Having said that, expect nothing less from these new Angels, as they will be following closely in the footsteps of their predecessors (Finnair noted that the original service concept remains, sans environmental restrictions at the different foreign airports).
Finally, tales of the Angels’ helpings are already coming in:
“One of the most memorable experiences of the Berlin Angels was when a little boy was crying inconsolably as his parents checked their bags in to reach their destination. An Angel took a Finnair play set from her bag and gave it to the boy, whose tears were quickly replaced with a smile.”
Once again, “the Angels are there to help”, whatever the situation may be.
The future for The Angels
I’ve managed to get in touch with our friends at Finnair, and got hold of Noora Verronen (Planner, Marketing Communications at Finnair) to share some of her thoughts on the Service Angel project as a whole:
“The Service Angels project has been really fun and has generated a lot of positive feedback from our customers. It’s actually a great manifestation of our service design and customer promise of delivering “Peace of mind”. The Service Angels they are there to provide assistance with just about anything and they are also there to create a good, relaxed spirit among passengers. Small deeds of kindness, that’s what angels do. That is our way of delivering peace of mind to not only our customers but anyone who’s in touch with the service angels (and thus the Finnair brand).”
Noora also raised the possibility that the Airline already have plans to send the Angels to other airports, with those locations currently still under wraps.
Kudos to Finnair for making the typical traveller’s passenger experience a far-less-strenuous one. While we may all wish for them to be there for the entirety of our journeys, starting off with a positive outlook — at the airport — can do wonders to our state of mind (and emotions) for what’s to come.