Consistently ranked as one of the best airports in the world by passengers and other organizations, Helsinki-Vantaa is beginning a phase of developments and upgrades that aim to retain this position and allow growth alongside its partner airlines.

In 2012, Helsinki handled almost 15 million passengers, of which more than 12 million were international β€” the vast majority provided by national carrier Finnair. These figures are set to rise, with 14.4 million passengers handled in January to September this year, and international passengers up 2.5 percent on the previous year. As an aside, however, the airport reports that domestic travel is shrinking.

The airport has clearly modeled itself in the past decade as a gateway between Europe and the Far East through Finnair's links and airport infrastructure improvements. Of the important Asian destinations, China (+20.2 percent) and Japan (+5.2 percent) recorded strong growth, while Spain (+18.5 percent) and Turkey (+21.1 percent) were the major European destinations posting the biggest increases.

The airport's owner, Finavia, is now embarking upon an ambitious plan to increase its capacity to 20 million passengers per year through a series of improvements and construction projects that will last until 2020.

The works will cost an estimated 900 million euros, partly financed (200 million euros) by the Finnish government. Most of the changes will focus on improvements to the airport's terminal buildings, with runways and airside infrastructure largely unaffected, aside from resurfacing and general maintenance.

Terminal 2 will see additional check-in areas, automated baggage drops and increased security screening area. Meanwhile, non-Schengen passengers will enjoy larger transit areas, and the terminal will be extended into part of the current P1 and P2 car parks.

From 2015, it is anticipated that a satellite to the terminal building could be built dependent on demand at the time. If time and budget allows, a single check-in area and security control could be developed for all flights, along with improved passenger flow between arrivals and departures.

"Passengers do not want any hitches, and they expect quick transfers, high-quality services and a wealth of experiences," Finavia CEO Kari Savolainen said. "In a highly competitive environment, the success of an airport depends on these factors, and they must also be the focus areas at Helsinki Airport. One in every three passengers choose their flight routes on the basis of the transit airport.”

Savolainen added: β€œIt is estimated that about 20 million passengers will be using Helsinki Airport in the early 2020s. This means that we need bigger facilities and that Helsinki Airport must be able to keep up with the demands and improve its processes. Maintaining our principal airport as a leading transit hub will ensure that Finns will continue to have extensive flight connections and it will also boost the competitiveness of the Finnish economy.”

The resurfacing works and general maintenance to the terminal building will cost around 100 million euros to ensure the standard of infrastructure is kept at a level that passengers and customer airlines expect.