FINNAIR – A GENUINE EXCELLENT BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHT

As you remember at the end of last summer I fall in love with Finnair and it’s short-haul product (https://leonardmiron.com/2018/08/14/ay-a-possible-new-love-in-the-air/). In December trying to organise my New Year cruise starting from Dubai I came across some incredible fares offered by Finnair for the route Helsinki-Dubai-Helsinki. Sounds a little bit of a hassle to fly to Dubai from London via Helsinki but believe me that using AVIOS for the LHR-HEL-LHR flight and 2 nights at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Helsinki the final price was almost half that the extorsion requested by British Airways. And this was nothing if you take in the account the excellent product and on-board service which place well behind their British partner from One World.

And in a cold morning of December I was ready for my long-haul experience with Finnair. It is a little bit excessive to say “long-haul” as Finnair consider the flight to Dubai as a hybrid between their short and long-haul products. But the quality of the service and the comfort of the passengers are still the main goals for the flag carrier of Finland.

Finnair does still occasionally offer very good Business Class deals on its flights to Dubai (which operate during the northern hemisphere winter) but the issue has always been that, while the fares could be very good, the aircraft on offer were not. Finnair has traditionally operated narrow-body aircraft from the Airbus A320 family on its Helsinki – Dubai route which means that the Business Class cabin only offers short-haul style seating like in a configuration 3 – 3 with the middle seat kept empty – that’s not exactly the lap of luxury is it? The good news is that Finnair is adding its excellent wide-body Airbus A350 to its Helsinki – Dubai route for winter 2018/19 and that means that the Business Class offering goes directly to a proper flat bed. Using this larger aircraft allows for cargo to be carried in greater amounts, and the rotation of the aircraft allows this, so, why not taking the advantage of the European trade?

After a good search on the internet I finally secured my seats on an Airbus350 for both outbound and inbound flights.

The excellent experience with Finnair started with a breezy check-in and a dedicated security fast track at Helsinki’s Vantaa International Airport and carried on in the Non-Schengen Finnair Lounge. It’s quite a walk from the security area to the departure gate for non-Schengen flights plus a passport control (e-gates style) but as the flight was quite early (8.10AM) the lounge was quiet and almost empty (see my previous review https://leonardmiron.com/2018/08/13/3-airports-5-lounges-48-hours/) and the smoking area, lucky me, only 3 minutes away.

After spending some time in the Finnair Business Class Lounge I proceeded to the boarding gate. The Finnair ground experience, however, could use a little work. The gate area was crowded full of family with children and a free-for-all ensued when boarding was announced, despite priority lines indicators. Fortunately after the boarding gate the access in the aircraft was done by one door for Business Class (D1L) and another for Economy Comfort and Economy (D2L)

Finnair’s A350 was love at first sight: spacious seating, unique Finnish touches at every turn, signature cocktails, funky Nordic food and one of the best cabin crews I’ve ever experienced turned “just another flight” into absolute delight. It’s not exclusive to Finnair, but the Airbus A350 offers a phenomenal cabin experience. Humidity stays just about right, oversized windows let in lovely sun and noise is minimal. The Finnair A350 cabin offers a minimalist but sleek style, with grey blue seats, green Marimekko touches and nice, large entertainment systems. Of course, the mood lighting is off the charts as well. I absolutely love Finnair’s cabin design and finishes. I know some may say that it screams IKEA, but when the airline is based in Northern Europe, I think that’s perfect. And I also loved all the splashes of colour in the cabin, from the lime green pillow to the blue amenity kit and “folder.”

The configuration of my flight had business class is one cabin with eight rows (32 seats)

The business seats are spacious. The 1-2-1 configuration means everyone has direct access to the aisle, as well as more privacy since you don’t meet anyone’s eyes when sitting down. The design is elegant white with grey detailing and makes the interior seem airy, although some might say it lacks character. Splashes of colour come from the amenity bag and the pillow and bedding, in white and blue and white and green respectively.

The IFE screen comes out from the side of the seat in front and has a 16-inch screen which can be tilted in various ways, depending on the angle you are at when watching. The tray table is removed from the armrest and then folds out to a decent, if not generous, size. As you’d expect on a brand new aircraft, it was firm and I had no trouble using it to work on my laptop. There is in-seat power with capability for US, EU and UK plugs. In addition, you can charge your phone or other devices using the USB power.

Upon settling in, the foot well area is seemingly wider and larger than British Airways. This makes a huge difference in sleep quality, as you toss and turn in the night. The entertainment system is extremely intuitive, and for a welcomed change to in flight entertainment, seemed to be without bugs. There was never a blip, reset or screen lag in scrolling. Power ports are well placed up and out of the way of any elbows, as are headphone jacks. No one likes rolling over in the night and unplugging their phone. Rounding out the tech summary, Finnair offer solid Bose noise cancelling headsets and WIFI is available on all A350 aircraft.

Finnair got things just about right when it came down to bed mode on the A350. The seat is extremely comfortable in lounge position but is spacious and nicely padded in bed mode. Marimekko pillows and blankets give a fun feel to the setup and the duvet seems to be the perfect weight to offer nice heat and comfort, without overheating. The entertainment screen is virtually non viewable in fully flat mode, which is the only slight draw back for those who enjoy flat bed movie night. With the reduced cabin noise of the A350, it’s extremely easy to get a decent sleep.

I loved the IFE system, which not only contained a handful of great movies, TV shows, games, and music, but a nifty map highlighting in-flight service. Wi-Fi was complimentary for business class passengers and worked well. My favourite part of the IFE, however, was the two high-definition cams. It is one of my favourite features of the A350 especially for take-off and landing. I’m not sure if it’s just the distortion of the camera or if it’s because of the altitude at which we were flying, but you could see what looked like the curvature of the earth.

The toilet was bright and modern with hand sensor taps. I liked the plant in the holder and the large window…just for being different than the grey depressing toilets on BA planes. The amenity kit was sparingly stocked, with eyeshades, earplugs, hydrating cream and lip balm. Also waiting at my seat was a dotted-folder, which had a menu, wine list, breakfast card, and duty free card.

It was truly hard to fault Finnair on cabin service. As a BA Gold Card holder and taking in the account the lack of consistency in recognising any status on British Airways flights I was more than surprised by a welcome handshake and greeting by name before departure. It is something simple which goes a long way to establish positivity before the wheels leave the ground. This initial impression followed on by personal yet professional service, without having to chase anyone up for top ups or other needs. In a word, the crew was proactive, in the best of ways. Meal service was elegant, prompt and cleared with impressive speed and style at the same time.

As soon as I settled in, one of the business class flight attendants offered me a pre-departure beverage. I had the choice between champagne, water, and Blueberry juice – a Finnair specialty. I chose the champagne, which was Nicolas Feuillatte. I absolutely adore the the Iittala Ultima Thule glassware Finnair uses in business class. A hot towel was also offered. Just before take-off lunch orders was taken, and a second round of drinks were served as the plane was pushing back from the gate.

One unexpected twist: the cocktails. Though not overly complex or boozy, Finnair’s signature drinks hit the spot in the very best of ways. The cloud-berry and champagne aperitif went down way too easily, and the double berry with blueberry juice and blueberry spirit was a repeat order.

One hour after take-off the breakfast was served…maybe the only weakest link of the entire journey. The cold Ciabatta with Mozzarella and tomatoes   reminded me of something that you will grab in the airport before catching a low-cost flight. Fortunately, the drinks were served nonstop during the flight and the beverage menu focused on quality and not quantity, On the return flight one hour before landing in Helsinki ice-cream was served, which was a good idea instead of a cold snack as we landed sometimes around 10:30PM.

The service is the area I would have to say Finnair absolutely exceled in. The staff on board were very friendly, approachable, and responded to call requests like a fairy in a puff of smoke (seriously, it was so instant I could hardly believe it). The crew on both my flights were really accommodating with all guests and this made the Finnair experience a memorable one.

During the flight Duty Free was offered with two options: on-board and pre-order and as a nice touch you could order for the return flight in advance. I couldn’t resist and ordered 8 of the Iittala Ultima Thule glasses to take them with me home.

The entertainment system was brilliant. The content kept me busy with MamaMia2, The Greatest Showman and one episode of RuPaul Drag race but , the actual interface was my favourite of any airline ever:

  • It was the most responsive system I’ve ever used, as there was virtually no lag after selecting options
  • There were no ads before starting shows or movies
  • The entertainment system had an awesome flight overview, which showed a timeline of the flight, including when meals would be served, etc.
  • The airshow was possibly my favourite airshow system ever, as it was easy to use and showed so many cool angles

Less than 2 hours before landing the lunch was served with two choices for the main course plus a vegetarian option; the flavours were excellent, and I was happy that the portions were well judged to be relatively light Drinks were served with and during the meal with interesting names on the wine list – including French, Spanish, Portuguese and Australian vintages and of course challenging to order but extremely tasty Finish cocktails

From Dubai to Helsinki dinner was served less than two hours after take-off in the same formula like on the outbound flight: a starter, a salad, two choices for main plus the vegetarian choice, cheese platter and Godiva chocolates as dessert. About 90 minutes before arrival in Helsinki a muted pinging sound woke passengers gently and ice-cream was served, which was a good idea instead of a cold snack as we landed sometimes around 10.30PM.

The Airbus A350 is such a gorgeous, quiet, smooth plane. Even the take-off and landing rolls were extremely quiet; I barely realised we were taking off or touching down.

Click here to see a video report of the flight HEL-DBX

Click here to see a video report of the flight DBX-HEL

I’m so happy I had the opportunity to finally sample Finnair’s business class, especially on their brand new A350.I love the A350, and from a passenger comfort standpoint it’s a win. Between how quiet it is, the tail camera, and the general cabin ambiance, it’s one of my favourite planes to fly.

I also loved the attention to detail in Finnair’s service. From the colourful pillows and amenity kits, to the flight attendants wearing gloves during boarding, the product was extremely well thought out. Service shined on both flights…I wish to commend every single Finnair crew on the flight for providing genuinely friendly, caring service. They were chatty…I like that. But they were also service-oriented. Drinks were refilled, the cabin was monitored often with extra water bottles offered.

All things considered, Finnair’s A350 business class still ranks high. The reverse herringbone seat and wifi are what matter most to me, while the special touches and quirky design are what set Finnair apart for me. When we landed ahead of schedule in Helsinki and I was truly sorry the flight had ended. Finnair is now absolutely one of my favourite carriers in business class. With great service, a comfortable seat, tasty food, and free and functioning wi-fi, I’d call this a near flawless business class flight.

Fix the Ciabatta issue and it would have been flawless.

~ by leonard69 on January 12, 2019.

One Response to “FINNAIR – A GENUINE EXCELLENT BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHT”

  1. we’ve tested the newest A350 aircraft Business Class flying to Asia a couple of times and the older ones to US and must say the new planes really make a difference. The food has been excellent every time – it’s not easy to design this stuff, we believe.

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