When your childhood dream becomes your way of life – 45 memorable years at Finnair | Finnair
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When your childhood dream becomes your way of life – 45 memorable years at Finnair

Katriina Veikkola retired at the end of April, after working for 45 years as a Cabin Crew at Finnair. Her incredible career includes training for variable job tasks and aircraft types, countless new destinations around the globe and an ever-lasting love for customer service throughout the years.

As a little girl Katriina, or Kati among friends, used to watch with her nose pressed against the window while the flight attendant living next door left for work with her blue cardboard bag. Her childhood dream job, thus, was to be a flight attendant – along with the profession of physical education teacher.

A deep love for customer service

Kati participated in the cabin crew basic training in 1977, and at the beginning of the following May 1978, she flew her first-ever flight as a Cabin Crew to Copenhagen and back. 45 years later, the last work shift of her wonderful career was a flight to Heraklion and back at the end of April 2023. As the secret to her long career, Kati cites a sincere love for customer service work, where every customer interaction is unique and equally important. “It’s largely up to you how you structure your workday. When you go the extra mile for the customer, you end up getting so much in return," reflects Kati.

The job as a flight attendant became a way of life and a factor that largely defined Kati’s life. “In my opinion, this has been a simply wonderful workplace. Not only because of the wonderful colleagues but also the wonderful customers who have made each workday unique. And when you think about it, I've been here for almost half of Finnair’s history! It's a long time, but at the same time, it has gone by like a breeze,” says Kati.

Over the years, Kati trained for all possible positions that were offered: she has been a Finnhostess, Service Chief, Assistant Purser, Purser and Chief Purser, and also completed a supervisor qualification training. “I encourage everyone to educate themselves, as it always adds more value to your work. The courses help you grow, and you gain additional energy and ideas that you might want to bring to your workdays," Kati says.

To those dreaming of a career as a cabin crew member, Kati encourages: “Be yourself, trust yourself, take good care of yourself and really enjoy yourself! This is person-to-person work, where you should dare to make contact with customers because they do really like it. Stay with people. Focus on the good and avoid negativity.”

Memories over the years

Kati’s work years are, without a doubt, full of memories. However, the most memorable and, at the same time, the most mentally tough flight of her career is the evacuation flight from Thailand to Finland after the tsunami, for which Kati got called to work from a stand-by shift on Boxing Day in 2004. “People returned home with nothing, and many had even lost their loved ones.”

On the other hand, an excellent improvement over the years has been making flights smoke-free. “There used to be a smoking area at the back of the aircraft, where I used to work a lot when I was young, until I became Assistant Purser and moved to work in the front of the cabin. Now it's hard to even imagine that you could smoke on a flight,” says Kati.

While many things may have changed, the human encounter has remained.  However, travelling across the world is no longer as rare as it used to be, and today’s customers come on a flight more relaxed and more aware than before – the stiff chalk stripe suits have been left at home.

Kati has enjoyed the different flights equally, and it has been just as nice for her to work on flights to Tokyo, Frankfurt or Ivalo. However, Shanghai rises a little bit above the others, as at one point, Kati used to fly there up to 3-4 times a month being in the pilot group of the Airbus A340 aircraft. The destination became familiar and dear, and the local colleagues from Shanghai working on the flights got close to Kati, who enjoys a multicultural work community.

On the last long-haul flight of her career, Kati got to fly to Shanghai, which she is really happy about. The curtains that she had ordered three years ago but was not able to collect due to the pandemic, were waiting at her destination. The crew gave Kati flowers, and the captain of the flight surprised Kati with a beautiful and touching speech. “It was certainly one of the most moving moments of my career,” tells Kati. The local ground crew officer had also ordered a cake for the return flight, and they got to enjoy it together with the Business Class passengers.

New winds and a look towards the future

As the best lesson from Finnair, Kati mentions trusting in people. As a manager, it has been important to trust the team and colleagues, as you are not able to do everything yourself. “I think the whole airline industry is based on trust: the pilots trust the aircraft and the technology, the cabin crew trusts the pilots, the passengers trust us, and we trust each other,” Kati reflects. At the same time, working in a multicultural work community has shown how important internationality and language skills are in today’s global world.

Even though Kati’s career as a flight attendant has come to an end, Kati has no intention to stop working, she even has two jobs currently. She graduated in 2012 as an interior designer, which she will continue to work with next. “I still have the drive to work, I like to work. Now my work life is just a bit different."

Kati, who has already seen the world, does not have, at least not at this point, a certain dream destination she is eager to travel to. Instead, she plans to enjoy the summer in Finland. About her amazing career as a flight attendant, Kati states: “This book can now be packaged in golden frames.”

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