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Home Finnair's A350 long-haul business class shines - once you board

    Finnair’s A350 long-haul business class shines – once you board

    7.3/10

    From 3 editor reviews

    John Walton

    Cabin: Business
    Route: Helsinki-Tokyo
    Aircraft: Airbus A350

    8/10

    Finnair review shines
    Finnair’s A350. Photo: Finnair

    It used to be that when I flew Finnair you felt that the airline was a little-known hidden gem;  an efficient, elegant, above-average option for connecting from Europe to Asia, particularly to the secondary cities in northern and western Europe.

    Anyone passing through Helsinki Airport, which is in a constant state of expansion, will have been disillusioned with the “little-known” part of that feeling, particularly at the rush-hour bank times. These are primarily in the mid to late afternoon as the long haul aircraft come and go and the infrastructure is creaking at the edges.

    This is obvious at every point in the connecting passenger experience, but particularly at the lounge — which is, in fairness, under reconstruction until May, but is so overcrowded as to be unusable — and boarding gate areas. Top tip: the Schengen zone lounge is much less crowded, though you’ll have to go through EU immigration.

    Leaving the lounge aside as a relatively temporary problem, it struck me that the airport has gone too far in the direction of providing shops and restaurants, and not far enough in providing passenger movement spaces and especially enough space for a passenger load of widebodies at the gate. The packed lounge situation had me seeking refuge by the gate well in advance of boarding, and even on a relatively well-organized flight to Tokyo Narita the whole space was a bit of a scrum.

    Finnair either needs to sit down for a sternly worded talk with the airport operator to free up space or needs to deploy staff to manage the hubbub.

    On the Airbus A350, by contrast, I was welcomed by calm and smiling flight attendants and directed to my seat, one of the Zodiac Cirrus outward-facing herringbone seats in the forward of two business class cabins. (This is definitely the place to sit: the rear cabin has the entire plane walking past you as you try to settle in.)

     

     

    Seat and Amenities

     

    Finnair review shines
    Zodiac’s Cirrus is a fine product and gives direct aisle access to all. Interior photos: John Walton.

    This Zodiac product is fine: very much nothing to write home about, and the lack of storage, in particular, is a frustration, but the bones of the first outward-facing herringbone have always been good and this implementation on the relatively wide A350 fuselage is certainly comfortable enough for the relatively short overnight to Asia.

    The A350’s lower cabin altitude — like the Boeing 787, it’s 6000 feet rather than the 8000 feet of previous generation aircraft — makes a remarkable difference on an overnight flight.

    I turned in shortly after dinner for a few hours’ snooze with the decent pillow and blanket on this nine-hour flight.

    Customer service on board

    You might think it’s difficult as a journalist to tell whether a note in your file has meant you get extra service and attention from on board, but my strategically chosen seat towards the rear of the cabin meant I could observe this mixed Helsinki- and Narita-based crew introducing themselves to each customer, addressing passengers by name, having little chats, recommending Finnish delights and being particularly friendly to everyone, not just me.
    There’s a stereotype of brusque Finns, but this crew were cheerful, highly efficient and couldn’t have impressed me more.

    Catering

    Finnair review shines
    The superb braisedreindeer with grains and mushroom purée might not look amazing but was absolutely divine.

    Finnair’s food was exemplary: every mouthful was delicious, even if the main course — heated in its own little dish — focussed more on heartiness than presentation. A winter stew like this is always tricky to show well, but fresh herbs and a lack of baked-on sauce would be a start. Surprisingly excellent Finnish cheeses and a huge slab of moreish chocolate cake set me up for a good night’s sleep.

    The wine list, too, was intriguing enough for this adventurous Western palate yet suited to the sweeter tastes in Japan. Alongside the Joseph Perrier Champagne was an aromatic German Riesling, a buttery Californian Chardonnay, a fresh French rosé, a rather tight Margaux, a robust Montepulciano, and an earthy German Pinot Noir, plus an American ice wine and a ruby Port from Graham’s.

    I was  woken by the scent of strong Finnish coffee and a robust breakfast that, so soon after a big dinner, I only picked at.

    The rösti boat was crisp and savory, though, and the eggs with salmon a nice touch. I practically inhaled the light, fresh, semi-sweet blueberry juice Finnair serves, though — so refreshing and unusual.

    Finnair review shines
    If I’d crashed hard before dinner I’d have been grateful for this hearty breakfast

     

    Inflight entertainment

    Finnair review shines
    The IFE was a decent size, given the swing-out mechanism, and high-def

    The inflight entertainment screen swings out and works gate-to-gate, although as ever the amount of trilingual (Finnish, Japanese, English) announcements is not ideal as a viewing experience. I know there are options for displaying non-essential announcements (welcome on board, please buy our duty-free, here’s our charity collection, thank you for flying with us) on the screen, so this too is an area to examine. So is the selection of shorter content: there’s not a huge range of the “snackable” videos that make a lot of sense for the airline context.

    Wifi on board was provided by Panasonic over the Ku-band, with business class passengers getting a free hour. In truth, its performance was slow and jittery, understandable given that I learned from the crew that a full two-thirds of the plane was connected, but really only suitable for emails and very, very light browsing.

    Finnair shines review

    Extra information

    All in all, the actual flying on Finnair was superb. The only problem, I’m surprised to conclude, is Helsinki airport, which needs a good hard look at its passenger experience. So much of the Finnair differentiation has been around the previously heavenly HEL experience, especially compared with Heathrow, Frankfurt or Charles de Gaulle, that the hectic squeeze feels like a missed opportunity.

    John Walton was a guest of Finnair, but all editorial opinions are his own.

    Sharon Petersen

    Cabin: Economy Class
    Route: Singapore to Helsinki return
    Aircraft: A340-300

    6.5/10

    Seat and Amenities

    Every seat has a pillow and blanket but they are very small . The pillow is only just the size of your head and has a disposable covering. The blankets were thin and small -only enough to cover half your body. The seats on our outbound flight were old but extremely comfortable with a 32 inch seat pitch and 6-7 inch recline. Coming home we had an aircraft with the newer thin seats which were narrower, less comfortable and reclined about 5 inches. Amenity kits are not offered to Economy passengers on long haul flights

    Customer service on board

    The staff were incredibly efficient. Within an hour of takeoff the evening meal service was completed including tray removal – I was very impressed. I didn’t find any of the cabin crew particularly friendly but perhaps that comes with great efficiency. The PA system on the aircraft was very quiet so when we along with other passengers asked the staff to repeat the meal choices as we were unable to hear we were literally answered with “chicken or beef” and that was that – we didn’t dare ask any more questions!

    Catering

    Think of your usual economy meal on a full service airline and then reduce that size by a third. The meals were small and the presentation was very basic, no nice serving dishes here. Drinks very served in paper cups and were small in size. The flight was a 12 hour flight and there was no snack service between dinner and breakfast 9 1/2 hours later.

    Inflight entertainment

    The in flight entertainment is limited to about 34 movie choices which are chosen to appeal to people from different countries. It is likely you would run out of choices if you had two long haul flights within the same month ( content is refreshed at the beginning of each month). The screens on the outbound flight were old and small. On the return flight we had newer screens that were larger and had much better clarity. Given that the in flight entertainment choices are limited and it is strongly advised to fly across two months to ensure you get different choices on both the outbound and return journey.

    Extra information

    Overall Finnair will give you the passenger a lot less blanket, pillow, food, drink and entertainment BUT the price generally matches this and it becomes a very good value for money option. The other thing that is very important is the efficiency of this airline – I have to say it is arguably one of the most efficient airlines in the world. One of the other things I liked is that all passengers must have their window shades down till the breakfast service on a night flight. The staff were very strict on enforcing this. Would I fly Finnair again? Yes I would if they were significantly cheaper than the competitor BUT I would take my own blanket and snacks and choose flights across different months to ensure there was enough entertainment choices. The other great think Finnair has going for it is it’s hub at Helsinki airport- this is one efficient airport!! The business class offering is supposed to provide excellent value for money and I hope to be able to report on this one day soon.

    Sharon Petersen

    Cabin: Economy Class
    Route: Helsinki to London return
    Aircraft: A320

    7.5/10

    Seat and Amenities

    Seats were comfortable however being that my seat backed onto an exit row I was unable to recline. There were no blankets or pillows available.

    Customer service on board

    I found the customer service on this flight a lot better than the long haul flight with the cabin crew very happy to explain things and attend to passengers call bells

    Catering

    This is where it got interesting. Although it was less than a 2 hour flight the sandwich/turkish roll served was almost as filling as the meals on the long haul flights. Alcoholic beverages were not served complimentary.

    Inflight entertainment

    There was no in flight entertainment however shared cabin screens did show the takeoff and landing from external cameras on the plane

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