Sauna bathing is sometimes described as the national sport of Finland. There are three million saunas in Finland, a country with five million inhabitants, so it is not too surprising that the world’s only dedicated lounge sauna is available at Helsinki airport.
The sauna is located in the Finnair Premium Lounge, located in the non-Schengen area at the airport. For several years there was a spa area at the airport called “Finnair Via Spa”, with a pool area and several different saunas offering an authentic Finnish experience. Although entry was free for Finnair Plus Platinum members, all other passengers had to pay 45 euro to enter, which many found a bit too steep. Although the idea was fun the number of guests turned out to be insufficient and the spa was eventually closed.
The new Finnair Premium Lounge opened in August 2014, in the same area as the old spa. The Via Spa is obviously gone and the space has probably been put to better use now, but the sauna is back, and it is free of charge to all eligible lounge guests.
The Finnair Premium Lounge is accessible to passengers with a Finnair Plus Gold or Platinum card, or a OneWorld Sapphire or Emerald card, when travelling the same day on Finnair or another OneWorld carrier. The lounge shares reception area with the Finnair non-Schengen Business Lounge, which can also be accessed with a Finnair Plus Silver card or a Finnair or OneWorld business class ticket, and it seems like also these passengers can use the sauna and the shower area.
The sauna is hard to miss when heading from the reception area to the Premium Lounge. It is clearly signposted and requires a right turn just before entering the main lounge. After a long corridor, passing some staff areas, you enter the sauna and shower area, which can best be described as a spa lobby with some seats and colourful plants. This is the main area for the shower rooms, the changing rooms and of course the sauna.
For guests wishing to use the sauna there are dedicated changing rooms for men and women.
The changing rooms are small with two lockers for clothes and hand luggage, a shower, a large mirror, hair dryer and towels. The lockers were broken for some time, the locks did not work, but this has now been fixed with proper keys.
After getting undressed you pass through the lobby to the sauna area.
In the next room there are two showers right outside the sauna.
There is also a rack with soap and shampoo next to the sauna door.
The sauna is not particularly large with seating for maximum four guests, unless you do not mind sitting quite tight and possibly know the other guests. The sauna is mixed, available for both male and female guests. The Finnish tradition is to use the sauna naked without swimwear but there are large towels available in the changing room.
The sauna is activated by pressing a button on the wall, which activates the sauna heater and keeps it turned on for around 20 minutes. After that time the heater returns to a low energy mode but it is easy to press the button again to reactivate.
The two showers outside the sauna can be used to cool off. In the lobby there is also a container with chilled water to prevent dehydration. Drinks from the lounge are not allowed to be brought inside the sauna.
Although the sauna is small it is a lovely experience, especially after a long day of travelling or before or after a longhaul flight. It is simply very refreshing and vitalising. During a period the lockers were broken which meant any valuables had to be brought inside the sauna or the adjacent shower room, where they could be seen at all times, but this has fortunately been fixed now. Some guests have also used the private shower rooms (which are lockable) to store the hand luggage. Still rather surprisingly few people use the sauna, the short transfer times at the airport probably being the main reason.