Airports are crowded at this time of the year with an international mix of tourists as well as business-bound frequent flyers. What can be done to make their experience more memorable? Helsinki airport is testing a number of initiatives intended to cater for a variety of cultural tastes.
This summer, Finavia the operator of Helsinki Airport has been testing potential new services in their TravelLab initiative. The TravelLab takes ideas that have arisen from customer feedback and the Quality Hunters crowdsourcing initiative, makes them into prototypes and brings them to actual passengers for testing. Prototypes tested during the first run of TravelLab have included airport yoga, floor stickers guiding children to play areas, a coffee-vending bicycle, service menu info screens on airport buses, a Finnish-themed photo wall and a midsummer festival.
The prototypes were evaluated based on experience, reliability, urgency, cost efficiency and their alignment with Helsinki Airport’s strategy. The airport has identified four different passenger profiles among its users: fast and efficient flyers, who make up 38% of the airport’s passengers; enjoyment seekers, who come in second at 31%; safety seekers, who are the smallest group at 13%; and habitual travellers, who make up 18% of Helsinki Airport’s passengers. The prototypes were also studied in terms of the passenger group they reached best, the time of day passengers were most responsive to them and the available time passengers had for engaging with services at the airport.
Midsummer magic enticed passengers from Asia
Passenger’s responses to the prototypes tested has been overwhelmingly positive. The most popular prototype, by far, was the Midsummer festival. This prototype saw the non-Schengen gate area decorated with traditional Midsummer birch trees and a maypole. Passengers were invited to take part in flower garland workshops, Finnish super food tastings and a traditional Midsummer dance. The prototype was most popular with Chinese, Japanese and European passengers and all passenger groups apart from the fast and efficient flyers. Passengers especially thanked the uniqueness of the experience, saying that they had never experienced anything like this at an airport. Even passengers with delayed flights remained happy.
Relaxed passengers gave high marks to airport yoga
Yoga Gate was another hit among the passengers. In the harmonious Kainuu space, passengers could take part in instructed yoga and Pilates classes or exercise independently, using instructions provided in the space. Classes were organised during the peak hours in the morning and afternoon.
Passengers ranked it high based on the experience. The service was found to be unique and useful, although the mats were also used purely for sleeping. The prototype was most popular among passengers from Korea, China, Japan and Finland. Rather surprisingly, the passenger group best reached were the habitual travellers, who normally like to minimise the time they spend at airports.
Participants were eager to share their experiences with friends and family, and thought a service like this would make them more likely to choose Helsinki as their transfer airport. Yoga Gate will continue in August, as the second run of TravelLab commences.
Gate Roastery attracts safety-seeking Europeans, but leaves Asians cold
In Gate Roastery, passengers were offered the chance to buy coffee and tea from a local roaster directly at the gate from a coffee vending-station mounted on a bicycle. Passengers thanked the personal and friendly service, as well as the uniqueness of the prototype. It was seen as a good and fast option for times when there are long queues at the cafés. As such it was most popular among passenger groups who want to minimise the time they spend at the airport, the habitual travellers and the fast and efficient flyers, but also the safety seekers, who want to minimise the chance of missing their flight. Coffee as a product appealed to Finns and other European travellers, but not to Asians and passengers with long flights ahead of them.
In the Service Menu prototype, transfer passengers received information about airport services on airport bus screens and in brochures. The Service Menu suggested different services based on how much time the passengers had between their flights and what their interests were. The prototype best reached habitual travelers with tight transfer times in the afternoon hours. The prototype will be further developed in the second round of TravelLab.
Footprints on the floor: family-friendly signage?
TravelLab also tested animal footprints as a child-friendly guide leading to the Reima Playproof play area. The prototype reached Finnish and Russian families in the safety seeker target group. Children aged 2 to 6 years old were most interested in the footprint trail.
Families engaged with the prototype saw play areas as the most important airport service after bathroom facilities, but thought them hard to find. With some improvements on visibility of information, guides such as this one might be helpful for passengers with children.
Family fun at the photo wall
The Finnish-themed photo wall was seen a fun, mood-lifting addition to the airport. It was most popular among Chinese and Finnish passengers. Of the passenger groups, it appealed most to the habitual travellers and, rather surprisingly, the safety seekers. It was most popular among passengers travelling with family or as a couple.
The photo wall prototype will continue in August with some changes made based on the results of the first run.
The second round of TravelLab introduces new prototypes
TravelLab’s second round will start on July 21 and continue at the airport until August. In the second phase, some of the prototypes of the first phase will be tested further.