FINLAND. Helsinki Airport’s innovative #LIFEINHEL campaign, in which Chinese influencer Ryan Zhu documented 30 days spent living at the airport, has generated an audience estimated at 2.2 billion people.

The extraordinary consumer reach was driven by Zhu’s and the airport’s social media plus extensive mainstream and industry media coverage. The campaign also attracted around 10 million video views. Ryan was also interviewed by The Moodie Davitt Report about his experiences, including his review of the acclaimed Pier Zero restaurant, which received the ‘Wow Award’ at this year’s Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Awards.

“We at Helsinki Airport have an impressive track record in the continuous development of the customer experience. This time we wanted to have a comprehensive insight of how an international transit passenger sees us,” said Katja Siberg, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Finavia, the operator of Helsinki Airport.

Ryan Zhu dining at Helsinki Airport’s acclaimed Pier Zero restaurant, which received the ‘Wow Award’ at this year’s Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Awards run by The Moodie Davitt Report

The #LIFEINHEL initiative highlighted the claim that Helsinki Airport is the leading airport in Northern Europe. “We are a top hub for connecting Asia and Europe. At the same time, we are also preparing to serve 30 million annual passengers, while also maintaining our position as a preferred airport”, Siberg said.

Finavia reported last week that Helsinki Airport’s passenger numbers are growing at a double-digit growth rate. Passenger traffic will hit a record 18 million this year.

What Ryan wants – Chinese food please

In the final report, Ryan gives Helsinki Airport an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. Security & safety, together with transfer times, all received full marks.

“We are very pleased with Ryan’s ratings, of course, but the most valuable insight lies where there are still room for improvements,” said Siberg. “For example, we share his opinions concerning the lack of space and Chinese food. I’m delighted to announce that with our extensive €900 million development programme, the terminal space will enlarge by +45%, due to which we will expand our food offer – especially to the Asian kitchen,” Siberg commented.

Zhu also suggested that more service staff with proficient language skills could be hired. With their help, tourists could learn more about the food they eat and the products they buy at the airport.

While Siberg promised that Finavia would look into this area, she pointed out that Helsinki Airport already has several Chinese customer service personnel. Furthermore, e-Translators in several languages are available, as well as hot water dispensers installed especially with Asian passengers in mind. AliPay and UnionPay payment systems are also in place.

Global engagement – Campaign was a great investment

“When we decided to cover Ryan’s experiences with short daily videos, we took a risk,” said Siberg. “Naturally, we had no control of what he and other key opinion leaders would post on social media. But honest and open communication is our core policy and company value. Moreover, if Ryan had not liked it here, he would have taken the next flight back to China. But it all paid off.

“We are very happy that #LIFEINHEL has engaged people globally, including in China, USA, Japan, UK, Australia, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and of course in Finland. Inspired by all these enthusiasts, we are now planning to issue a compilation on all the episodes of Ryan’s life in Helsinki Airport,” said Siberg.

Ryan’s final report can be seen at

#LIFEINHEL, a disruptive content marketing campaign mixing reality TV, game shows and social media, took place between 10 October and 8 November at Helsinki Airport. Ryan Zhu lived in a small cabin for 30 days in Terminal 2.

#LIFEINHEL Final report – experience and a review of Helsinki Airport

Between October 10th and November 11th 2017, I had the opportunity to live in a small cabin in Helsinki Airport’s non-Schengen terminal, writes Ryan Zhu.

My task was to test the different functions and services of the airport. The goal was to find out whether Helsinki Airport is the best airport in the world.

During the month, I formed a comprehensive view on the entire airport. I was positively surprised by many things, yet there is always room for improvement. You can find my thoughts and development ideas below. I have given my rating on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = poor and 5 = excellent).

The Helsinki Airport staff certainly made me feel at home and I made some new friends. Therefore, I cannot give a grade for them.

So, is Helsinki Airport the best in the world? Undoubtedly, for me it is. I have been deeply touched by the enthusiasm and warmth of the staff. I consider the Finns to be more introvert than the Chinese, but very sincere people. Although the weather is very cold, the heart of the Finns is warm. They are kind, hospitable people.

Yours Sincerely, Ryan Zhu


1. Security & Check-in: 5/5

Security plays a key role in any airport. At Helsinki Airport, the Security Control is strict and smooth. Before you enter Security Control, there are several self-service check-in kiosks. You can also find a dedicated security control lane for families with kids, and for disabled or handicapped people. When you get to the Passport Control by the Border Control, there might be a bit of a queue during rush hour. Overall, compared to many other airports, I feel that the general feeling of safety in Helsinki Airport is really high.

2. Transfer time: 5/5

It took me 35 minutes to go from one side to the airport to the other, including Passport Control, even though I walked slowly on purpose. All of the terminals are connected and under the same roof. Thus, in Helsinki Airport, transit is very smooth.

3. Washrooms, showers and sauna: 5/5

Toilets are relatively clean, and they play nature sounds, such as birds singing and rivers flowing. There are also showers and a sauna at the airport, but they are only available for lounge customers. For this reason, I strongly feel it is worth buying a lounge access.

4. Places to sit: 4/5

The airport not only provides normal types of chairs, but also some very big ones, where you can lie down and sleep. While there is a lot of room in the recently renewed Non-Schengen area, there could be more places to sit. The Schengen area is very busy during rush hour. This is perhaps the biggest issue at the moment.

5. Places to work: 4/5

There are many areas where you can focus on work. Even small cubicles, which block the noise, are available for free and there is no need to worry that your devices run out of battery power, since you can charge them in nearby sockets. There are a lot of sockets and USB ports available around the whole airport, even on standing tables and near the chairs. Unfortunately, some of the sockets were out of use when I tested them all.

6. Kids areas: 4/5

There are four different play areas for children in the airport, which is more than anywhere I know. They make waiting times more convenient for families. However, in my opinion, some of the areas could benefit from a little facelift.

7. Sleeping and relaxing facilities: 5/5

You can spend a comfortable night at the airport, especially in the Non-Schengen area, in which there are many lounge chairs to lay down and sleep. There is also a massage parlour and hotels in the airport. Sleeping pods are available to rent, in which you can really block off all noise and sleep in peace.


8. Food and drink: 5/5

I have tried all 29 restaurants at the airport. Depending on your choice, you can really have a healthy and local meal – like salmon, reindeer, and blueberry smoothie – every day. This was actually a thing I was a bit worried about beforehand and Helsinki Airport proved me wrong. However, although many of the passengers are Asians, there is only one Asian restaurant. I am sure there will be more in the future.

9. Shopping: 4/5

There are shops that sell both Finnish design and international luxury brands and the staff are very helpful. There are also Chinese shopping guides and e-translators, which is great. However, I would like to see more shops and to make local Finnish products even more visible.

10. Mobile Application: 3/5

I have downloaded the Helsinki Airport App, the mobile application. It has a lot of useful information.

11. Services for Chinese people: 5/5

At Helsinki Airport, signs everywhere are written also in Chinese. The airport is equipped with warm water dispensers (Chinese drink their water warm), which was a great surprise.

When I called to the Customer Service, it was lovely to hear fluent Chinese. There are also Chinese-speaking Service Guides, and in many shops Chinese-Speaking staff and/or e-translators that help overcoming the language barriers between the passenger and sales personnel.

Using AliPay and UnionPay to pay for your shopping with your phone makes things so much easier. The Chinese can also benefit from Helsinki Airport’s free unlimited Wi-Fi, WeChat and Weibo accounts, in addition to the homepages in Chinese. Overall, the travel experience for a Chinese passenger is great and I have not seen this level of expertise anywhere else.

Overall grade: 4.5/5.0