Nice to meet you, my name is Petra – I’ll be your Finnair hostess today!
I once asked a dear friend sulkingly what she thought my talent was as I cannot draw, I’m not athletic, I have no sence of rythm and I certainly cannot sing. She (a great singer herself, by the way), without hesitation replied that my talent most definitely was storytelling. And not only telling stories, yapping my mouth about nothing, but virtually drawing events in front of listeners’ eyes with words. Either verbally or literally. First relating to people by listening and then putting it all together.
I liked that answer and kind of recognized myself in it.
And ever since my first day at work in 1996 I’ve been fascinated by this industry; the airplanes, the aspect of flying, the places I get to visit and most of all the people I meet; passengers, crew, ground personnel, airport officials, locals – you name it!
It’s the stories I hear. The events I witness. The people I talk to . It’s the everyday stuff really BUT still different. It’s airline stuff. It’s all on the go.
Now I feel almost as obliged to bring some of this to all of you. I mean it’d be a shame to keep all the good stuff to myself, wouldn’t it?
From now on I’ll have my camera ready in my apron pocket, keep my ears and mind open and if you are ready and willing, I’ll tell you the story of the passenger of the week. Enjoy!
Travelling with children can be nerve-wracking no matter whether you are going near or far.
Although some kids have traveled since birth and are total pros at it, it still is a change from the everyday routine and opens a door for anxiety, uneasiness, rampage even. Some handle it easier, some not so much. Some might have a fear for flying, some just feel agitated inside a plane, away from home and the familiar. Some sense the nervousness from the parents and act upon that. Some run around, fuss and fight. Some sleep from the the moment they enter an airplane.
And some are just cool as a cucumber. They sit back and enjoy the ride.
I interviewed a few ‘cool cucumbers’ and got some first hand tips for successful KIDDIE AIR TRAVEL:
1. Start preparing early
Get your own backpack out. Decide what to bring. Plan ahead.
Pack, unpack, pack. Feel free to do it as many times as necessary. It is a lot of fun!
(parents – always check your child’s belongings before leaving home! You don’t want any unpleasant surprises at the security check).
2. Back snacks
Although airplane food is good (yes, they all agreed on this!) and fun to eat, it’s important to have some own snacks too. It could be fruits, veggies (ready peeled and diced), cheerios, nuts, pretzels etc. Or even something more hearty, if it’s a long flight.
A juice box, small milk carton or water bottle is also a must (but remember that liquids you can add only after the security check).
3. Bring lots to do
Crayons, note/colouring books, games, stickers (everyone’s favorite), magazines, never seen before books etc. Arts & crafts stuff.
All this is easy to fit in a relatively small space and has a great time consuming factor to it. The good old tic-tac-toe is also a great game to play onboard!
4. Don’t forget your cuddly toy or blankie at home
It’s absolutely essential to have something super soft and cosy next to you on those midnight hours when you’re trying to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. If there is no such thing as a favourite soft toy, then bring a warm sweater, small blanket or a pillow instead. Not always is there one for all passengers!
One of the best ways to travel, at any age
5. Take some toys, but not too many or too big.
Some toys are better than others to bring to an airplane.
Toy cars are good, legos are not (you’ll drop and loose them). Large dolls might not be a good idea, but then again Barbies are perfect!
Bring the one you love and play the most with. And it will be nice to have with you all holiday.
6. Get electronical
Don’t underestimate the importance of modern technology! Tablets, portable video games and DVDs… All this equals to its weight in gold when all else has failed. And mom and dads, if you are otherwise particularly strict on the playtime, on the plane it could be a good idea to let loose a little bit. These devices can provide you with the peaceful moment you need.
Any boy’s idea of happy travels!
7. Stay happy!
Tip that all kids agreed on:
Stay positive. Stay happy. Enjoy your flight. Don’t get angry and let us have some candy. Candy is important!
Just got back from an amazing once in a lifetime adventure!
This was a long-awaited work assignment that we as the crew didn’t have a lot of info about beforehand. A phone call some two months ago, a date, a brief description and nothing else.
No destination, no client, no names, no details, no nothing… Something mysterious in two months. Are you in?
Of course I said yes.
The curtain of secrecy opened up about two weeks ago when we all finally got to see who was on the crew, where we were going and most importantly that Finnair and Marimekko were joining forces and our flight would be the start of it all. Once in Shanghai a press conference would be held and it all would be official.
Finnair & Marimekko. Yet another step towards being a true design airline.
The BIG launch. Marimekko’s wonderful team of pros had provided us all with individually fitted outfits to model on the flight. We would also have Marimekko dishes, linen, napkins, blankets etc on our flight to work with and even the plane would carry Marimekko’s phenominal ‘Unikko’ flowers on its belly.
Unikko ie the poppy plane
Still many things had to be considered in preparation for the flight and practicing the fashion show: How long can it take, who will stay in the galleys (which have to manned), where will we change, what is the perfect moment for this (before/after dinner service), how will we get the passengers to stay put, where is it safe to stop for poses etc.
A first ever fashion show high up in the clouds. Never been done. We had to figure it all out.
The day of the actual flight started with some serious grooming. Hair and make-up by Marimekko’s team, thorough briefing by our own purser and yet another briefing by the Finnair planning team. Our unique Marimekko dresses handed to us, some pats on the back, a few kicks in the butt for good luck and off we went.
And once inside the airplane it was pretty much business as usual, boarding, taxiing, take off and so on until… after the apetizer service.That is the perfect moment early on in the flight when everyone is sitting comfortably, has a drink and some snacks and is selecting movies, starting on a book, relaxing.
That’s exactly when we started ever so discretely sneaking one after another to the forward galley and changed into our Marimekko clothes in silence. Meanwhile our purser announced on the PA that something ‘very special’ is happening and that the captain is now going to put on the seat-belt sign. With butterflies in the stomach we got ready to step out from behind the curtain.
And so we did.
Music composed specially for this occasion filled the air as we began our catwalk. I felt weak in the knees, shaky even, but it all went away as I met the eyes of Mr Ihamuotila (CEO of Marimekko) sitting in row 1, clapping his hands with a wide smile of excitement. Nodding his head in one big YEAH all the way!
I could not have felt prouder to be there. Proud of the crew, proud of our company, proud of Marimekko and the fact that we where there, at that very moment, representing all of it. Brands that have been around all our lives. It felt amazing.
And the atmosphere on the plane was amazing! People clapping hands, cheering, taking photos, stopping us for poses, laughing. All nationalities, all races, all ages – together enjoying the moment. Every once in a while I would meet the eyes of my colleagues walking the other aisle and it was like we couldn’t believe it, the feeling from people. The temperature rising. The warmth. Truly an incredible moment.
After the show we all gathered in the forward galley, hands shaking, excited, emotional and joined in on a long group hug. We did it! We rocked it! Woohooo!
And then we just very quickly changed back into our uniforms, packed all outfits away and continued work as if nothing had happened. Well almost… On a normal day we get far less high fives and hugs from passengers. Or photos taken, especially during dinner service.
I love my job. And this time I loved it twice as much.
Last May Finnair opened a new route to Chongqing, Finnair’s newest destination in China and one of the fastest growing cities on the planet.
This month I personally had a chance to fly there and see this amazing city and (most importantly) meet the passengers on this route. You see, the fun part of my job is the fact that every route has its own kind of passengers that, already before the flight, you kind of expect and mentally prepare to see and serve. Flights to Japan are totally different to, let’s say, from flights to New York or London. Beijing clientele differs widely from that of Singapore’s and so forth.
So I was very anxious to see what kind of people I was to meet on this Finnair AY56 to CKG flight.
And guess what? Pleasant surprise! A vibrant, excited, good-humoured group boarded the plane on both ends! Mainly Chinese, but a lot of Westerners too. A good deal of the Chinese passengers were on their way somewhere in Europe for a vacation, some even stayed here in Finland (which always pleases me). A lot of children, some expats returning home, business people and even some backpackers.
Yes, backpackers — like these two brave girls that had had a great trip in China.
Irene and Maarit had been touring China for 1 month, visiting cities Chengdu, Xian, Beijing, Wuhan and Chongqing. Last year they did a similar roadtrip in Europe and inspired by that, they conquered China this summer. And a great trip it had been! All the Chinese people they met had been extremely helpful at every occasion, friendly and curious. In spite of the language barrier everything had gone very well.
As the girls put it, a smile takes you a long way.
Maybe the most memorable experience for the girls was the long 16-hour trainride they took from Chengdu to Xian. 16 hours turned into 18 hours in the approximately four square-meter entry area of the train. Right there next to the toilet, smoking room and what appeared to be a cleaning closet.
They sat on their backpacks but had to get up at every station as they were otherwise blocking the doors. Their cramped and somewhat awkward position still didn’t stop a constantly changing nonstop group of five to eight local men standing right there staring at them.
Luckily that same group actually provided them with ‘an interpreter’ when there was some confusion over their tickets with the train conductor.
Now seated on much comfier seats, the girls summarized the month as a great experience, but they were also happy to get home. Tired but happy, as we say.
Ling & Jze, AY56 CKG-HEL
During the flight I also spoke with some locals, three ladies from Chongqing were part of a larger group on their way to Paris for an 11 day holiday. This was their first trip to Europe and needless to say, they were beyond jittery. When I asked them why Paris, and why not some other city in Europe, the choice was obvious:
Paris is the city of fashion! Paris is soooo charming! Paris has wonderful history! And mostly – Paris is so romantic!!!
Sluhan, AY56 CKG-HEL
When I complimented them on their own city of Chongqing, they agreed that it too, is very charming.
And reminded me of two things: it’s super hot and humid during the summer, and I must try the world famous Chongqing Hotpot when next time in town.
And I will, of course.
I wish Sluhan, Ling and Jze a great vacation in romantic Paris and a good flight back to their own amazing city on our blue and white wings.
Here is a group of 15 people I was very blessed to meet on my Finnair flight AY22 back home to Finland from New Delhi, India.
This group of 15 from Oulu, Finland, was returning from a 3-week journey in Kathmandu, Nepal, where they had been visiting schools, living in so-called grace homes (accomodating mainly elderly, homeless and orphans), in people’s private homes, touring small villages and just meeting a bunch of inspiring people of all walks of life.
They were Youth’s With a Mission group from Tuira Church congregation in Oulu.
Their ‘Project Kathmandu’ had started 2 years earlier when the group was formed, and an intensive voluntary work was started to raise funds for this trip. In these two years the group had performed all kinds of chores, grown together, finally forming into a very tight and united team they were now.
And that really showed. They even looked a little alike, all dressed in loose cotton clothes, soft natural colors of orange and green, henna tattoos in their hands. All very softspoken and polite. And sunny!
Now when they were on their flight back home I got to ask firsthand what were their feelings right after the amazing 3 weeks:
“Good. Excited. Blessed. Tired but happy,” they said.
All the Nepali people they had met had been utterly friendly and blissful, full of joy and praise for life and curious to know about the group and other cultures.
The mission youngsters had put together a program to be performed at the schools; childrens play’s, singing, pictures of Finland etc, and all of this was received with great enthusiasm and naturally a lot of questions arose. Luckily with them travelled five nepalese guides/interpreters so they were fully able to communicate with the people they met. Although at one occasion there was a good chance for something to get lost in translation; a lecture given in sign lanquage, then translated in to Nepalese, then to English and finally to Finnish… And this was only one of all the wonderful (and funny) memories they brought home with them!
The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission is supporting local grace homes in rural areas of Nepal, emphasis on mental health care and development in poor mountain villages. The Tuira Mission Nuoret from Oulu wrote a blog of their journey (in Finnish): http://missionuoret.blogspot.fi
You never decide in the morning that today I’ll be shedding tears in front of nearly 300 passengers but still that might happen. And it did when I met Eeva-Liisa Paynter (nee Taipale) from Adelaide, Australia, on Finnair flight AY70 from Hongkong to Helsinki.
I spoke to Eeva-Liisa several times during our service and finally when we had a break went back for the whole story. She’d awaken my curiosity…
Eeva-Liisa had told me that she had not been to Finland (her native country), since she left at the age of 13 from Pori, Finland, a whopping 53 years earlier. And now after all this time, on the first days of her retirement, she finally was on her way back. Back to her roots.
Eeva-Liisa from Adelaide, Australia
You must imagine this was a very emotional journey for her and listening to her story, for me too. Eeva-Liisa told me how she as a little girl first packed her suitcase (they were allowed only one piece of luggage each) full of books only to be later told to only choose two. And it was a hard pick for her as she was already at that age a huge bookworm. Finally she chose Maamme kirja (an epic Finnish studybook, published first at 1875 and used for decades in Finnish schools) and an equally classic songbook Parviaisen laulukirja. She still has both. And sometimes still sings songs from this very old Finnish songbook.
Eeva-Liisa’s eyes teared up when I asked her what she is most excited to see in Finland. She took a moment to collect herself and then told me, ‘it’s silly really…just small things. Like the smell of Finnish midsummer lilacs (syreenipensas) or the look and feel of a birch grove (koivulehto) in the summer wind. Or even the very traditional colorful Finnish rag rug (rasymatto). All those little things I so vividly remember from my childhood’.
Well, for the next month she is going to be touring Finland, meeting relatives with her group of 7 and I am absolutely certain she will get to see and feel all the things mentioned. Lilacs, birch trees, rag rugs, smell of summer… We still have it all!
Midsummer Lilacs from Kotka, Finland
Eeva-Liisa, if you ever read this, I wish you all the best, hope your trip was everything you wished for and more.
And thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Welcome back.