Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is located on the southern coast of Finland and is one of two airports serving the nation’s capital, Helsinki. The Vantaa portion of the name refers to the actual community near Helsinki where the airport is located. The airport is sometimes known simply as Helsinki Airport or by the airport code of HEL. The airport is ranked among the top five in passenger traffic in the Scandinavian countries with more about 15 million passengers each year.
History of the Airport
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport traces back to the early 1950s and was constructed to serve as a gateway to Finland for the 1952 Olympic Games. The two terminals currently in use at the airport have been modernized and are connected by walkways both within the secured airside of the terminal and the unsecured public portion. The terminals include the standard amenities and retail opportunities with free Internet available throughout the facility.
The terminal used by each flight is determined by the destination of the flight. Flights from countries that are signatures to the Schengen Treaty of 1985 utilize one portion of the terminals. The Schengen Treaty created a borderless area of Europe encompassing 26 countries where passengers are not required to pass through customs. Passengers from destinations not within the Schengen area utilize a portion of Terminal 2 and must pass through Swedish customs, which operates, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time. The two terminals provide a total of 89 check-in counters serving 21 gates and 10 baggage claim areas.
The airport utilizes two parallel runways and one crosswind runway for 24-hour per day air operations. All runways are equipped with instrument landing systems. The principle runway extends about 3,400 meters or 11,300 feet and has no aircraft size restrictions. The other runways vary in length from 2,900 meters or 9,500 feet to 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet. The three runways accommodate about 100,000 take offs and landings each year.
Flight operations at the airport utilize a continuous descent approach. This practice is also known as green landings and aims to place the aircraft on a more consistent glide path while approaching the airport during the landing process. This glide path reduces the amount of fuel consumed by the aircraft as well as the amount of emissions from its engines. A byproduct of this approach method is reductions in noise levels heard by people about 12 kilometers or 15 miles away from the airport. The reductions in noise, fuel usage, and engine emissions is considered a great positive for the environment.
Cargo operations are handled at a single airfreight terminal sized to accommodate the loading and unloading of Boeing 747 sized aircraft. Ground storage facilities include storage for fresh and frozen foods, meat inspections, an airport mortuary and dangerous and radioactive good facilities. The cargo terminal handles about 145,000 tons of airfreight each year with carriers providing service from Europe, North America, and Asia.
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport offers a mobile website travelers can access from within the airport providing flight information on a real-time basis for users with Android or iPhones. The system allows travelers or their family and friends to subscribe to a text message service specific to a flight and date. This is particularly useful to people meeting arriving passengers who want information about the flight and any possible delays. The service is available in English, Swedish, and Finnish.