Sunday, 22 November 2009

Finnair launches mobile phone boarding passes and text message check in

I have flown with Finnair many a time, and find them to be absolutely fantastic, with great cabin staff, food, the works. And Helsinki Airport is a clean, pleasant place – lovely for buying seasonal gifts if you are heading home for Christmas. Anyway, it’s interesting to hear that Finnair have now launched mobile phone boarding passes and text message check in. Not bad, eh?

So how does this work? Well, the mobile phone boarding pass consists of a 2D bar code which gets scanned at the airport. This boarding pass will apparently work on all mobile phones, though I do wonder about some of those really old ones that some Luddites insist on carrying about.

Finnair’s Sales Director for the UK, Tomi Hänninen, says: “The mobile boarding pass system cuts passengers’ carbon footprint by removing the need for passengers to print out and keep track of a paper boarding pass, thus eliminating waste paper. Customers will also see a tangible benefit through using the mobile boarding pass system as it will speed up the check in process, affording Finnair flyers even greater stress free travel.”

As for the text message check-in, this is available to members of the frequent flyer programme Finnair Plus. If you have luggage then you need to go to the baggage drop desk where it can be checked in. No luggage? In that case you can get going straight to the gate with no faffing around standing in those interminable queues so typical of airports.

For morning departures Finnair sends out a check-in text message the previous evening between 17:00 and 19:00, and for afternoon departures the message is sent about three hours before departure time.

It’s good to see that the handy and ubiquitous mobile can be used to make life simpler at airports, and no doubt other airlines will be keen to follow this trend.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Air Canada try out in-flight internet access

If you are one of those who can’t bear to parted from the internet even for a minute, and dread passing the time of long haul flight with little to do, then the recent innovation of some airlines to provide internet access in the air will no doubt have come as a welcome development. In-flight internet access using the quaintly named Gogo network is now available on some U.S. airlines, including Virgin America, Delta, AirTran and American Airlines.

The latest airline to get in on the act is Air Canada who have just launched a ten week trial period during which certain flights on the Montreal-Los Angeles and Toronto-Los Angeles routes will offer web access. The price isn’t too bad either, with access costing US$9.95 for laptops and US$7.95 for phones and PDA’s. However, for the time being the service will only be available when flying over the USA.

The whole concept of web access in the air is certainly an exciting development because simply going online must be the perfect way to while away those boring hours of long haul. And who can resist the idea of sending emails to friends and family telling them how good it is to be above the clouds?

No doubt competitors will be carefully watching this move as the opportunity to use the internet while flying will give any airline a serious edge and attract passengers. So how long will we have to wait before this trend makes its way across the Atlantic?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Meeting Santa in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Christmas is well on its way, a sure sign being that I walked into my local supermarket to see glittery decorations and a life size model of Santa, as well as hearing jingly music. Some love it, and some hate it. But if you are one of the people that just can’t get enough of Christmas, then you may consider a trip to see Santa.

It’s quite funny that the original Saint Nicholas was from Myra in Turkey, but in the nineteenth century he suddenly morphed into the fat red-coated gentleman who lives in the north, and it seems that now Lapland is thought to be his traditional home. It could have something to do with the wonderfully snowy environment of the north that people so associate with Christmas.

If you want to see Santa Claus Village, this is just outside the town of Rovaniemi which has its own airport. Santa Claus Village at Rovaniemi is actually open all year round, and here you can meet Santa and his elves. Rovaniemi Post Office receives letters to Santa from children all across the globe, and they even send out replies on colourful, Christmassy notepaper!

Rovaniemi is not just about Santa though, it is also good for shopping with designer stores stocking various top Finnish brands such as Marimekko and Arabia. There are also Santa outlets of course.

But if you feel like a more rural and slightly less commercialised environment, then other airports to head for are Ivalo, Kittila and Kuusamo.

And, in case you are wondering, what or where exactly is Lapland? It is home to the Sami people who were originally a nomadic group roaming the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They lived in tents that were similar to native American tepees, and by the 16th century their economy was largely based on agriculture and reindeer. Obviously today the Sami live in modern houses.

They refer to their land as Sapmi, and this northern area has beautiful fjords, lakes and wilderness. The winters are dark with little sunlight but what little light there is gets reflected from the bright, white snow, and there is also a chance of seeing the aurora borealis. In the summer the place becomes the Land of the Midnight Sun with wonderfully light nights.

The area offers some great opportunities for enjoying winter sports and the great outdoors, and makes a great place to visit summer and winter, Santa or no Santa.