Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport (airport code HEL) is, unsurprisingly enough, the international airport of Helsinki, Finland. The name is a bit of a bureaucratic boondoggle: the airport primarily serves Helsinki but is located in the neighboring county of Vantaa, so the airport's name has both elements and Finns universally refer to it as "Helsinki-Vantaa", much to the dismay of the language police. (To put this into perspective, imagine Newark Airport being called New York-New Jersey, and people saying things like "I'll head over to New York-New Jersey to pick up Uncle Bob tonight". Then again, sekicho notes that Dallas Fort Worth International Airport also exists...)

History

The airport was originally built just in time for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, since Helsinki's existing airport at Malmi was too small and could not be expanded. It took over all international operations on October 26, 1952, becoming Finnair's new hub, and after that it's been growth all the way.

The second runway was opened in 1956 and a new passenger terminal in 1969, with an expansion in 1983. In 1993 Terminal 1 (as it is now called) for domestic flights was opened, and in 1996 the international Terminal 2 was expanded and connected to Terminal 1, with yet another expansion in 1999. 2002 saw the opening of the third runway, allowing the airport to do more than 48 operations per hour and setting the stage for yet more expansion. The airport currently handles 10 million passengers per year, quite a respectable sum considering that Finland's population is only 5 million!

Present

Despite all this growth, Helsinki-Vantaa remains a nice little airport that consistently ranks at the top of all airport satisfaction surveys, including three "Best Airport in the World" awards. While stylish Scandinavian design, logical layout and copious central heating probably don't hurt, I suspect a large reason behind the favorable reviews is that Helsinki is outside most main routes and passenger volume is thus far below the JFKs, Schiphols and Naritas of this world, and even the neighboring airports of Kastrup (Copenhagen) and Arlanda (Stockholm) are considerably bigger. All international flights share Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 for domestic flights is only a short walk away, allowing convenient transfers. In terms of facilities, the airport offers the usual array of tax-free shops, executive lounges and overpriced cafes; in other words, the same as every other international airport on the planet.

Getting There

The airport is located in what was once the village of Seutula in the county of Vantaa, some 30 minutes from the center of Helsinki by bus and less by taxi. HKL bus 615 does the trip for €3, Finnair's shuttle bus charges €5 but takes you directly to the doorstep of many popular hotels. If there are many of you, you're in a hurry or you have a lot of stuff to carry, the Airport Taxi minicab service may be an option, since for a flat fee of €18 it will take 1-4 people anywhere in the Helsinki metro area.

A long-awaited new railway to the airport is finally under construction, but is not expected to be operational until 2008 at the earliest.

Feed Your Autopilot

IATA code: HEL
ICAO code: EFHK
Coordinates: 060°19'02" N / 024°57'48" E
Runways: RWY 1 04R/22L, RWY 2 15/33, RWY 3 04L/22R
Instrument Landing System: CAT III

References

http://www.helsinki-vantaa.fi/
http://www.whel.de/Aerospace/airport_rwy_info_1.htm
Personal experience

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