11.06.2012 12:05

Chongqing is open for business

My alarm goes of at 04:00 am on Thursday, May 10, 2012. It is time to get up and head to Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport.

In the lobby of our hotel, a few of my colleagues from Finnair’s passenger division join me. We all have something in common – red eyes – due to the early wake-up call. Nevertheless, there’s a sense of anticipation and excitement: we are about to witness the arrival of the first Finnair flight from Helsinki to Chongqing.

Our hotel staff has very kindly prepared a takeaway breakfast for us as we set out towards the airport at 05:00 am on this typically grey and slightly foggy Chongqing morning. All the preparations at the airport have been completed, and our transfer to the tarmac at Jiangbei International Airport goes smoothly. We are joined by local and Finnish authorities and members of the media. We are soon informed that our flight is on its final approach, and we can feel the level of excitement rising – no more red eyes.

Finnair's A333 (OH-LTR) aircraft touches down on schedule at 07:10 am, and the awaiting group responds with cheers and applause. It is a tradition to welcome the first flight to a new destination by taxiing it through the so-called “water gate”. Authorities at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport have thus arranged two fire engines to be ready and waiting for the aircraft. They turn on their water cannons, and the streams form a massive arch.

I must admit that a tear nearly formed in the corner of my eye as I watched the plane taxi through the water gate. For me personally, this moment marked ten months of preparation work alongside our colleagues at the Finnair headquarters, on our passenger side and in China to ensure that we would be 100 per cent prepared.

Finnair's arrival in Chongqing was welcomed with a warm and celebratory inauguration. Chongqing, China and Helsinki, Finland finally have a direct connection. Jiayou Chongqing!