Happy 90th birthday, Finnair!

Finnair, the trusty airline of my home country, is celebrating a big birthday this year. Only 10 years to go until the BIG 100! Woohoo! 🙂 In January Finnair was named the world’s safest airline in 2012.

While just five years ago I didn’t have any particular ties to Finnair,  nowadays I have quite a lot: in 2011, I was selected as one of the seven Quality Hunters bloggers traveling on Finnair for seven weeks. That gig saw me zoom from New York to Europe, Japan and India in my own personal record speed. I also now have a couple of friends who work at Finnair as flight attendants.

In addition, I’m a frequent contributor to Blue Wings, Finnair’s in-flight magazine, where I’m currently in charge of compiling the monthly calendar of events. So if you are flying with blue and white wings anytime soon, check out my event recommendations under the “This Month Around the World” pages. My favorite event for this month is the breakfast buffet festival for monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand. Would love to check it out one day. 🙂

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With all these Finnair connections I’ve got going on, it was only suitable that Blue Wings asked me to write an article about Finnair’s 90th birthday – but to do it from the perspective of the passengers. Without the passengers, there would be no Finnair. So back in July I spent a day at the Helsinki Airport interviewing families and individuals for the story (and visiting the Book Swap that I helped create!). The point of the article was to show who flies with Finland’s national airline, and what they think about it.

Though I had to get up super early to get to the airport by the time the 6 a.m. rush starts, it was a really fun day of reporting. I was roaming around the airport together with photographer Tuomas Kolehmainen and our Finnair liason Markku Remes. Markku and I worked together during the Quality Hunters project too, so it was nice to catch up again. We met tons of interesting people, from international business men to Croatia’s official athletic team and Finland-loving Japanese tourists.

And here’s the result! The article is a pretty cool-looking three-page spread in the November issue of Blue Wings that is just now hitting the seat-back pockets of every Finnair flight from Hong Kong to New York. So if you are flying with the airline this month, keep an eye out for my story and my calendar. You can also read the latest issue online here (scroll to pages 24-25 for the birthday story that is pasted below, and to pages 64-65 for the start of my events listings. Just so you know – “sivu” means page in Finnish.). Hope you like reading the story as much as I liked reporting it!

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Have you flown with Finnair? What was your experience like?

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The Helsinki Airport Book Swap: From a random idea to reality

Back in the fall of 2011 I was on a 10-hour plane ride with Finnair, flying from Japan back to Helsinki, when I finished a book I had been reading for a few weeks. It may have been Pico Iyer’s colorful Video Night in Kathmandu, or Rusty Young’s Marching Powder, a novel set in the infamous Bolivian prison of San Pedro that I visited in 2008. I can’t remember for sure.

But I do remember thinking, “I wish there was a book swap at Helsinki Airport so that I could switch this book for another one before my next flight.” And thus I posted this suggestion on the Quality Hunters blog (at the time I was working as one of eight QH travel bloggers hired by Finnair and Finavia):

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Much to my surprise, the blog readers liked the idea, as did Finnair and Finavia. The book swap became reality in the spring of 2012! Hurray! It’s located next to departure gate 27, up the stairs toward the Fly Inn Restaurant & Deli.

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Even though the stylish Airport Book Swap has been around for more than a year, I only witnessed it with my own eyes two weeks ago. That’s because over the past year I’ve merely flown into HEL, not out of there. Luckily now I was at the airport working on a story for Finnair’s in-flight magazine Blue Wings, and I finally got the chance to see my little pet project in real life. Finnair’s own Markku Remes, a familiar face from my Quality Hunting days, showed me the place and I even left a book there. The space was really cute and cozy, it was great to see that it turned out so well! I will definitely go hang out there next time I’m flying somewhere. I hope you’ll do the same if you are ever stopping by HEL!

Have you visited the Helsinki Airport Book Swap? What do you think about the idea?

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